Retailers call for longer Christmas trading hours as unions push back

Unions say workers deserve more annual leave.

Unions say workers deserve more annual leave. Photo: TND

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) wants Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia to deregulate Christmas trading hours.

In Perth, for example, retailers must close by 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, and by 9pm during the week unless the business is classified as a “small or special retail shop”.

But the chief executive of ARA, Paul Zahra, said such rules are inconvenient for shoppers and confusing for retailers.

“Customers expect to shop where and when they like – and they expect the same convenience in physical stores as they get online,” Zahra said.

But Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) secretary Josh Cullinan said laws on trading hours protected workers from being rostered at unsociable times during the holiday season.

“ARA’s attack on trading hours undermines the community in favour of consumption,” he said.

“Retail workers are mums and dads, siblings, kids, families, friends and communities who deserve time with those they love.”

‘Profits before people’

“ARA should stop putting profits before people and demand their members employ safety guards and pay workers living wages. These are the issues that really matter,” Cullinan said.

Unions have long opposed efforts by retailers to deregulate trading hours, though New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania have liberalised laws.

In the latest campaign, Zahra said the example set by these states should be followed by those that have retained regulated trading hours.

Retailers succeeded in getting some changes to trading-hours laws in Queensland back in 2017, with an eventual deal with the shoppies union (SDA) allowing increased trading at some stores.

But a full deregulation was headed off by the union, with an additional concession to workers, including requirements that staff must be able to elect to be rostered on at unsociable hours.

In Queensland, there’s currently a mesh of trading hours depending on location and business type, described in detail in a lengthy regulatory statement on Business Queensland’s website.

Unions have also campaigned against deregulation in South Australia, arguing longer hours would not create jobs but would rob workers of quality family time.

However, South Australia moved towards a partial liberalisation late last year, bringing back the start of Boxing Day sales to 9AM and allowing some midnight trading over Christmas.

‘Transformed’ world

Zahra says deregulation of trading hours reflects a “transformed” world of modern retailing.

“Shopping is no longer confined to brick-and-mortar stores with set trading hours,” he said.

“Consumers now expect convenience, choice and the ability to shop when it suits them. They also expect to shop the sales like Black Friday without the pressure of limited opening hours.

“It is time for state governments to recognise that the world of retail has transformed.”

The SDA was contacted for comment on Friday.

Topics: Consumer
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