Holy row over retail trading hours

Thou shalt shop for no longer. That’s the commandment from religious and union leaders who say politicians must love, honour and obey existing retail trading hours.

Four-and-a-half days are at present restricted retail days in NSW, with shops forced to secure an exemption if they want to open on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac Day (up to 1pm), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

But the Wesley Mission and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDAEA) fear an extension to opening hours is in store across the country.

‘‘What we’ve seen in recent decades is a dramatic increase in retail hours, eroding the work/life balance of many workers and placing pressure on family and friendships,’’ said Wesley Mission CEO Rev Keith Garner.

SDAEA NSW general secretary Gerard Dwyer says the federal government is plotting to secure agreement with the states and territories to extend retail hours.

‘‘Retail and warehouse workers were shocked by recent media reports that the federal government will seek agreement from COAG for extended retail trading hours across the country,’’ he said.

‘‘With more than 10 per cent of the NSW workforce working in retail and associated logistics, do we really want to deny these people the chance to spend special occasions with their families?’’

Retail and warehouse workers are due to meet in Sydney on Wednesday to launch a campaign promoting improved work/life balance.

The religious and union leaders are seeking a meeting with NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell before the next COAG meeting, on May 2, to express their views.

Comment has been sought from Mr O’Farrell’s office and from the Australian National Retail Association.

Christian Democrat MP Rev Fred Nile is due to receive a letter at the NSW parliament on Wednesday from religious leaders on the issue.

NSW Treasurer and Industrial Relations Minister Mike Baird said the modernisation of retail trading laws in NSW was ‘‘well overdue’’.

The NSW government was committed to providing more choice to retailers, employees and consumers and introduced a bill to parliament in 2012 with that objective, he said in a statement.

Despite the bill being withdrawn because of a lack of support in the upper house, the government would be examining ‘‘all options’’ to provide shops with the choice to open on Boxing Day, he said.

‘‘It makes no sense that around a third of the state can trade on Boxing Day following exemptions for ’tourist trading precincts’ approved by previous governments, but the rest cannot ...

‘‘Importantly, no employee will be forced to work on Boxing Day,’’ Mr Baird said.   AAP

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