The state’s upper house passed a bill in the early hours on Wednesday that allows retailers statewide to open their doors on December 26, provided staff are not forced to work.
NSW has been one of the only states in Australia to enforce Boxing Day retail closures, with only stores in the Sydney CBD and tourist areas allowed to trade.
But Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association NSW Secretary, Bernie Smith, has told reporters that employees will not be offered a genuine choice.
“There is no economic benefit from these changes, but there is a real social cost to the families of retail, fast food and warehouse workers across the state,” said Smith.
Built-in protections in NSW Boxing Day trade laws will do little to help retail assistants who can’t afford to turn down bosses, the shop workers’ union says.
“What’s written on paper as a protection about voluntary work is very different from what happens on the shop floor,” said Smith. “And just like retail workers who technically have a right not to work, small businesses inside Westfield will have a right not to trade. But most of those people report to us they’re very concerned what happens when their lease is up next time.”
He believes shops will open their doors even if they do not expect to make extra sales.
“Thousands and thousands of retail workers will miss out on family gatherings to deal with the returns of people’s unwanted Christmas presents from the day before,” said Smith.
Retailers welcome changes
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA), the Shopping Centre Council of Australia (SCCA) and the National Retail Association (NRA) have all welcomed the decision of the NSW Government to allow NSW businesses to open their doors on Boxing Day.
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA, said the new ruling to allow all retailers to trade on Boxing Day is a fantastic outcome and will eliminate the uneven playing field that was fostered by the previous law.
“The passing of this bill is a windfall for the majority of NSW retail businesses. It will allow those who would like to trade on Boxing Day outside of tourist areas and the Sydney CBD to cash in on this lucrative day of consumer spending,” Zimmerman said.
“We now live in a seven day consumer economy, and shoppers are demanding to be able to shop whenever and however they want. This is a common sense decision that will benefit retailers and consumers alike.”
NRA NSW state director, Michael Lonie, said regional retailers will no longer be at an unfair disadvantage to their city counterparts.
“For the first time, local retailers around all Sydney’s suburbs and all regional areas will, this year, see cash running through their tills on one of the most important days in the retail calendar,” Lonie said.
“Of course, it’s optional for retailers to open their doors, and employees in those areas will not be forced to work if they don’t want to.”
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