Government Easter trading hours process in disarray

Thursday 24 Mar 2016

The SDA has criticised the State Government for failing to make any formal announcement on Easter Monday trading hours.

Thousands of retail workers have been uncertain about their shifts while they waited for the Government to clarify whether shops would open from 11am to 5pm or 8am to 6pm.

A notice finally appeared in the Government Gazette on Tuesday afternoon that shops will trade from 8am until 6pm, but no formal announcement has been made.

“The Government’s handling of this issue has been shambolic, with the big retailers and the CCI telling workers for some time that shops would open at 8am, despite there being no formal announcement from the Government,” said SDA WA Secretary Peter O’Keeffe.

“Who is actually making these decisions – the Government or business?

“The SDA has repeatedly called for no further extensions to public holiday trading hours.

“We are a significant stakeholder, yet were neither consulted nor even advised in advance.

“Contrast this with the attitude the Government has apparently taken with business groups – some of whom were openly advertising these changes twelve days ago.

“What we want to know is who told them, in what circumstances were they told, and what input did they have into the decision? We are calling on the Minister to start providing answers and we have submitted an FOI request to see what discussions went on between the Department, the Minister, and the CCI.”

Mr O’Keeffe said there seemed to be confusion within the industry, with the websites of the major retailers listing trading hours for Monday as 8am to 6pm, while the shopping centre websites showed the hours as 11am to 5pm.

Mr O’Keeffe said that under the Retail Trading Hours Act, general retail shops could not trade on public holidays, unless the Minister issued an order allowing them to do so.

“It had been the practice until recent times for the Minister to allow trading from 11am to 5pm on public holidays – indeed the Department of Commerce website still lists 11am to 5pm as public holiday trading hours for general retail shops,” he said.

“Notwithstanding this, and without any reasons being given, the Minister has recently started to allow trading from 8am to 6pm on public holidays.

“These additional hours are, in our view, unnecessary.

“Indeed, the Minister is, by the stroke of his pen, allowing more trading hours on public holidays than the Premier has announced he will allow on Sundays if re-elected. What is the Minister up to?

“We would also like to know why he’s waited until less than a week before Easter Monday to provide any clarity to workers and the public – and then only to those who happened to read the Government Gazette.

“The Minister needs to show retail workers a bit more respect than to keep them in the dark for weeks and then slip the change through unannounced a few days before Easter,” he said.

“The government really needs to get its house in order and make these kinds of announcements months before the public holidays to provide certainty for staff and the community.”

Mr O’Keeffe said the Christmas trading hours last year were announced in October.

He renewed the SDA’s call for a full public Parliamentary inquiry into the current proposed changes to retail trading hours in WA.