Holiday trading in the Illawarra - is it fair?

The union representing retail workers says the state government plans to introduce Boxing Day trading in regional cities including Wollongong and use it as a ‘‘wedge’’ to eventually allow businesses to open on days including Easter.

On Wednesday, Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association NSW branch secretary Gerard Dwyer met union members in Wollongong.

Among the delegates was David Jones employee Elizabeth Tait.

She said her main reason for opposing an increase of trading days was because she was a practising Catholic.

‘‘For me it’s a religious thing,’’ Ms Tait said. ‘‘It disheartens and saddens me that greed is the basic line for them to be open to make more money.’’

Ms Tait said she would feel uncomfortable about telling her employer she didn’t want to work if the business was to open on a public holiday.

 ‘‘I want our business to prosper and provide my employment but I shouldn’t have to be forced to make such a hardline decision,’’ she said.

The state government has confirmed it is interested in allowing businesses in Wollongong and other regional centres to open on Boxing Day.

Currently, cities not counted as tourist destinations under state government legislation are not permitted to trade on Boxing Day.

The legislation means while Shellharbour and Kiama businesses can trade on the day, Wollongong businesses cannot.

NSW Treasurer and Minister for Industrial Relations Mike Baird said Boxing Day had become a traditional shopping day in Australia.

‘‘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,’’ he said.

It’s a position the Illawarra Business Chamber supports.

Chief executive officer Debra Murphy said allowing Wollongong businesses to trade was about ‘‘levelling the playing field’’.

‘‘The main concern is the inconsistencies enshrined in the Retail Trading Act which means that retailers in Wollongong LGA are restricted from trade on Boxing Day, while those in Shellharbour, Kiama and the City of Sydney are allowed to trade,’’ she said.

In 2012, the state government attempted to pass similar legislation, but it failed in the upper house.

Mr Dwyer said the legislation failed because it attempted to remove the restrictions on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and half of Anzac Day.

‘‘They said that one was about Boxing Day so we’re not going to fall for that,’’ he said. 

‘‘Boxing Day is just the wedge, to again open the whole debate on [protected public holiday] trading... they want trading on 365 days a year.’’

San Churro Wollongong manager Niki Simpson is not keen on working during the Christmas period.

San Churro Wollongong manager Niki Simpson and employee Belinda Whitehead. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

San Churro Wollongong manager Niki Simpson and employee Belinda Whitehead. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

She said she would much rather spend the time, including Boxing Day, with her family.

‘‘Christmas... is the only time you’re guaranteed time off,’’ she said.

But her boss, San Churro owner Mani Rosete, disagreed.

He said it was important for Wollongong to be brought into line with places like Shellharbour and Sydney.

Mr Rosete said businesses like his were missing out by being unable to trade on Boxing Day.

‘‘It’s a big trading day and for some reason we don’t get it,’’ Mr Rosete said.

‘‘It’s an opportunity for businesses.

‘‘I just don’t think Boxing Day is a family day.’’


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