RETAIL workers would feel obligated to work on Boxing Day and miss out on time with their families if the state government allowed shops to trade on the holiday, despite employers being unable to force staff to work.
That’s the view of Orange-based Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) representatives Charlotte Maguire and Tracy Morton.
Together with 58 members of the union from across the district, the pair met with SDA NSW branch secretary Gerard Dwyer in Orange on Wednesday.
Shops are currently barred from opening on Boxing Day unless they are in one of the 45 local government areas with an exemption for tourist trade.
A bid to reintroduce Boxing Day trading across the state in 2012 failed to gain support in the NSW upper house.
NSW Treasurer Mike Baird is again attempting to bring NSW in line with other states like Victoria, but says no employee will be forced to work.
He has also flagged further “modernisation” of retail trading laws, which the union fears could lead to trading on other special days including Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and the abolishment of the half-day close on Anzac Day.
Ms Maguire and Ms Morton, both workers at major retailers in Orange, believe shoppers already have enough days to shop each year.
“My opinion is it [Boxing Day] is a family day, people have to travel to see family,” Ms Morton said.
“If I don’t have Boxing Day [off] I can’t see most of my family.
“We work hard and long hours ... banks and doctors don’t open.”
Ms Maguire agreed and said workers were often forced to work.
“If there’s not enough voluntary people those rostered on that day for the normal shift have to do it,” she said.
Mr Dwyer said union members feared a reduction of shifts if they said no.
“Even if the employer is doing the right thing ... it gets down to a department level and people are made to feel they’ve let the team down,” he said.
“People feel as though ‘if I don’t work Mary with three young kids will have to work’.
“The only way to do it is ensure stores close on those handful of days.”
Mr Dwyer fears Prime Minister Tony Abbott will attempt to gain support for uniform trading hours across the country at the next Council Of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.
He said NSW union members felt Boxing Day should be reserved for family and research from Victoria over two decades had shown no correlation between extra days of trading and increased retail activity.