From the Secretary’s Desk
By Chris Gazenbeek,
2022 is once again going to be a busy year for the SDA and our members. It is true that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the main topic of discussion in our homes and our workplaces and I suspect it will occupy much air time throughout 2022.
SDA members can be assured that the Union will continue to represent the best interests of our members in discussions with employers and governments. For example, from 24 January 2022, essential retail such as supermarket night/dawn fill workers and service station workers are now regarded as essential workers. These on-going government and employer discussions continue to bring benefits to our members and it is so disappointing that some unhinged customers continue to physically and emotionally abuse our hard-working members. Spitting, punching and abusive language directed towards our members continue to occur and it is becoming quite clear that all employers and their store managers need to kick nasty customers out of their stores, governments need to legislate for tougher deterrents and individual magistrates need to do everything within their grasp to penalise these ferals.
Shop Trading Hours
Shop trading hours has a direct effect on the lives of our members. Saturday afternoon and Sunday trading are a relatively new phenomenon in Queensland as it wasn’t too long ago that, for example, Sunday trading was restricted to the Brisbane CBD. Since the 1970s, the SDA has continuously fought against extended trading hours because our members have told us in no uncertain terms that ENOUGH is ENOUGH. They know that at some point, rosters are impacted by trading hours and any change in trading hours pose a direct threat to their work/life balance. Our members also know that there are enough financial and emotional pressures on families and the last thing they need is to have roster changes which further erode the little family time they have. Of course, the sting in the tail has always been that employers have always argued for a reduction in penalty rates once trading hours have been extended.
Parliamentary Inquiry into the operation of the Trading (Allowable Hours Act) 1990
In 2017, the State Government decreed that there would not be any significant shift in shop trading hours for the next 5 years. The SDA welcomed this decision because at the time, there were continual submissions to extend trading hours throughout Queensland. At the same time, the government stated that there would be a formal review in 2021.
The SDA was invited to participate in the 2021 review as were different retail employer associations.
The SDA provided an oral and written submission. We argued that customers currently have enough time to shop and they cannot spend their money twice. A further important fact is that extended trading hours has not provided one additional job in the retail industry. Also, there are important issues to consider such as being required or coerced to work, rostering, the unavailability of public transport and child care and of course, the very important issue of personal safety.
After much deliberation, the parliamentary inquiry made nine recommendations to the State Government. They included:
- The Committee recommended that the Trading (Allowable Hours) Act be amended for an additional 12 months to 31 August 2023.
- That Section 5 of the Act be tightened so that a ‘special event’ be of local, State or national significance. A special event would be, for example, the Brisbane Olympics and not a country fair in Western Queensland. Members may remember the farcical situation when northern Gold Coast chain supermarkets were allowed to open late on Saturday evening during the Commonwealth Games even though there were no tourists staying in, for example, Coomera or Oxenford. Importantly, the Committee made the further point that non-exempt shops such as a large chain supermarket should not necessarily be given an exemption to trade during the ‘special event’.
- The Committee recommended stronger protections for retail workers by ensuring that such workers are not being coerced by employers to work extended, unsociable hours.
The Committee stated that, “It is very important that the rights of retail workers to choose to work or not to work extended hours are protected. Furthermore, an employer must not require an employee to work during extended hours unless the employee has freely elected to do so in writing”.
- The Committee noted that the impacts on extended trading hours can be significant and include issues such as transport, childcare and personal safety.
- The Committee also noted the potential for employers, through the use of enterprise agreements, to effectively bypass the protections intended by the Act. The Committee considered that employment of a retail worker under a federal enterprise agreement or award doesn’t lessen the risks to that retail worker when working extended hours, and has recommended the Act be amended to remove a provision so that the protection applies as a condition of any extension of retail trading hours, irrespective of any workplace agreement or industrial award.
SDA view and timeline
The SDA welcomes the Committee’s findings and recommendations.
The State Government now has three months to table in parliament its response to the Committee’s report and recommendations. I, in particular, will be looking at the Palaczuzuk Government’s response and members will be kept up-to-date on this very important issue.
Until next time, stay safe