Christmas holiday trading chaos continues, Coles set to lose $15 million in sales

The chaos over Christmas holiday trading continues to escalate, with supermarkets warning the New South Wales Government that it will lose $15 million in sales due to the structure of the state’s public holiday schedule, which will prohibit it from opening on Boxing Day.

The warning comes as Fair Work Australia will hear a proposal from the Australian Industry Group this morning regarding a plan to harmonise all the states’ and territories’ public holidays – but a new proposal from the Council of Trade Unions proposes even more holidays be awarded.

Yesterday, Coles said the New South Wales Government has been pressured by the unions into making sure supermarkets remain closed on Boxing Day. The Government says it has done so in order to maintain good conditions for workers.

This problem arises because Christmas and Boxing Day are held on a weekend. Instead of having the Sunday, December 26 as a public holiday, a substitute holiday will be held on Monday, December 27.

While Coles says it will be able to open about 80 stores in some “tourist” zones, hundreds of other stores will be forced to close and other chains will be affected by the same laws.

But the bigger issue, according to both Coles and Woolworths, is that the laws not only stop the stores from opening but no overnight staff can come in. This means that workers in bakeries and cleaners won’t be able to prep stores for Monday.

“Customers will be forced to shop heavily on Christmas Eve to last for the busiest time of the year and not be guaranteed supply on the Monday as stores cannot be replenished over the break,” Coles spokesman Robert Hadler told News.com.au.

But the Government isn’t backing down, with Premier Kristina Keneally saying that workers should be able to spend time with friends and family.

The situation only exacerbates the sheer chaos of the Christmas trading period, in which states and territories have their own laws and regulations about who can work and when.

This is why the full bench of Fair Work Australia heard a submission from the Australian Industry Group this morning on a proposal to harmonise the country’s public holiday laws. Chief executive Heather Ridout said in a statement the submission was made to “avoid unnecessary cost and confusion”.

With Christmas and Boxing Day falling on a weekend, states and territories are using their own laws and in some cases, are actually providing additional public holidays. In Western Australia, employers may be forced to pay public holiday rates for December 25-28, a possibility met with disdain by business representatives.

“With Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day all falling on a weekend this year, some States have proclaimed “substitute days”, some have proclaimed “additional days” and some have proclaimed a mixture of both,” Ridout says.

“Ai Group’s application relates to the Manufacturing Modern Award but the relevant clause in that award is common in other awards, and the Tribunal’s decision is likely to impact on many industries which operate over the holiday period.”

But the Australian Council of Trade Unions has released a statement saying that Christmas Day should be declared a public holiday in every state to avoid workers “from being forced… to work and miss out on a family Christmas”.

“This means that thousands of Victorian, SA, ACT and NT workers in hospitals, shops, cafes, public transport, security and other industries which operate around the clock are not entitled to refuse to work for family or religious reasons on the day.”

“It also means these workers will not receive public holiday penalty rates, but will only be paid what they normally would earn for working on a Saturday.”

President Ged Kearney has said the laws should be harmonised – but that Christmas Day should be a public holiday, and that an additional public holiday should be awarded on Monday, December 27.

“As a matter of principle, we think that all employees working on Christmas Day should get some form of penalty rate, to compensate them from time away from their family and friends, and time spent working on a day that everyone else enjoys off.”

“But the most important thing is that by declaring December 25 to be a public holiday, under the National Employment Standards workers would be able to refuse to work on Christmas and spend time with their family instead.”

COSBA chief executive Peter Strong has previously said that businesses should not be forced to “double dip” and pay employees for extra public holidays – a sentiment Ridout echoes in her latest statement.

“The ACTU’s plan would lead to even more double-dipping,” she warns.

And in case you’ve forgotten, here is the current schedule for Christmas holiday trading this year:

New South Wales and Queensland

Christmas Day on Saturday, December 25 is classified as a public holiday. A substitute holiday for Boxing Day will be held on Monday December 27, while an additional holiday for Christmas Day will be held on Tuesday, December 28.

Saturday, January 1 is also declared a public holiday, while an additional holiday will also be held on Monday, January 3.

Victoria

Christmas Day on Saturday, December 25, is not a public a holiday. A substitute public holiday will be held on Monday, December 27.

Boxing Day on Sunday, December 26 is declared a public holiday, and an additional public holiday will be held on Tuesday, December 28.

New Year’s Day will be declared a public holiday on Saturday, January 1, and an additional holiday will also be held on Monday, January 3.

South Australia

Christmas Day on Saturday, December 25 is not a public holiday, and a substitute public holiday will be held on Monday, December 27.

An additional holiday for Proclamation Day will be held on Tuesday, December 28.

New Year’s Day will not be declared a public holiday on Saturday, January 1, with a substitute public holiday to be held on Monday, January 3.

Western Australia

Christmas Day on Saturday, December 25, and Boxing Day on Sunday, December 26, are both public holidays. But additional public holidays will be provided for both on Monday, December 27 and Tuesday, December 28 respectively.

An additional holiday for New Year’s Day will be held on Monday, January 3.

Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

Christmas Day and Boxing Day are not classified as public holidays, with substitute holidays to be held on Monday, December 27 and Tuesday, December 28.

New Year’s Day will not be classified as a public holiday either, with a substitute holiday to be held on Monday, January 3.

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