Woolworths has lost its bid to make thousands of staff work on Christmas Day in its New South Wales stores.
The supermarket giant wanted up to 5000 staff to work between midnight and 5am on Christmas Day in order to re-stock shelves.
It previously applied to the the state’s Industrial Relations body for an exemption from the Retail Trading Act.
The supermarket claimed the exemption allowing staff to work on the holiday was in the public interest.
Commission says Woolworths can’t make staff work Christmas Day
However, NSW Industrial Relations rejected the request because the company failed to demonstrate the work fell under “exceptional circumstances” required by law.
Executive director Vicki Telfer wrote in her decision:
“The applicant’s submissions (reasons in its application) have not demonstrated exceptional circumstances.
“The applicant submits no evidence to support the contention that it is in the public interest for the employees of the applicant to work on the restricted trading day.”
What the unions say
The retail workers’ union labelled it a “big win” for workers and their families, who
Bernie Smith from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association’s NSW secretary said:
“Whilst we’re very, very pleased that Christmas Day has been protected, we’re still outraged that Woolworths would even make an application to have staff working on Christmas Day after all they give in the lead-up to Christmas.”
He also urged the government to go further and ban trading on Boxing Day.
“The only thing opening stores on the 26th does is rob workers and their families of the opportunity to spend the festive season together,” he said.
What the expert say
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Industrial Relations Claims, also welcomed the decision.
“Stores like Wooolworths are open 363 days of the year, surely they can allow their staff one day off to enjoy time with their families,” he said.
“Shelves not fully stocked for one day won’t break the Australian economy.”
What Woolworths says
In a statement, Woolworths says it is disappointed with the decision:
“While we’re disappointed with the outcome, we respect the process and decision by NSW Industrial Relations.
“Our store replenishment activity will cease on Christmas Eve across New South Wales in line with the Act.”
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