Government backs down on Boxing Day trade in NSW after Santa protest march

A protest led by a not so merry group of Santa Clauses yesterday has helped lead to a back-down by the NSW Government on its plans to allow more retailers to open their doors on Boxing Day.

A dozen Santas and about 100 people marched down to Macquarie Street in Sydney yesterday after attending a forum organised by the Shop and Allied Distributors Forum discussing retail trade amendment bills sitting before the NSW Upper House.

NSW president of the Shop and Allied Distributors Forum, Gerard Dwyer, told SmartCompany the culmination of the forum and protest was the withdrawal of the bills before the Upper House.

Dwyer says the legislation was an attack on workers’ rights to family time over the festive period as it proposed to completely deregulate trading on Boxing Day and had mechanisms which could deregulate trading on the remaining three-and-a-half days of Christmas.

“I think the government has seen the community just does not want further deregulation of its public holidays,” Dwyer says.

“This means retail workers, warehouse workers and their families will be able to properly celebrate Christmas as there is no Christmas without Boxing Day; it is effectively a two-day celebration now,” he says.

Dwyer says the bills proposed a new definition of medium-sized stores as having fewer than 100 employees, which would have resulted in many small retailers being forced into opening on Boxing Day.

The legislation also included provisions for local councils to make applications to remove trading  restrictions.

Russell Zimmerman, executive chairman of the Australian Retailers Association, told SmartCompany the ARA supported businesses having the right to choose whether they wanted to trade on Boxing Day.

“It’s fair to say that we support hours that can be seen to be user-friendly from a consumer perspective and retailers need to be aware of what consumers needs are,” Zimmerman says.

However, he says the ARA does not want retailers being forced to open by major shopping centres if the costs of doing business exceed the return of opening their stores

Penalty rates on Boxing Day and other holidays are very high and we don’t think retailers should be forced to be open if it is not viable for them,” he says.

“It is fairly well documented that the Boxing Day sales are huge. So we would be saying on a day like that, retailers should be given the opportunity to be allowed to trade but should not be forced to trade.”

The NSW Government’s move to abandon the legislation means that the status quo is restored whereby only stores in Sydney’s CBD and at popular tourist destinations in NSW are allowed to open on Boxing Day.

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