Woolworths staff will not be allowed to work Christmas Day in NSW after the Industrial Relations commission struck down a request from the supermarket chain.
- Woolworths sought permission for staff to work for five hours stocking shelves on Christmas Day
- The union said up to 5,000 staff would have been requested to work
- The industrial umpire said the chain had not demonstrated exceptional circumstances
Woolworths wrote to the Industrial Relations body in November requesting an exemption from the Retail Trading Act to allow staff to stock shelves in the early hours of Christmas day.
The request was rejected because the company did not demonstrate the work fell under “exceptional circumstances” required by law.
“The applicant’s submissions (reasons in its application) have not demonstrated exceptional circumstances,” Industrial Relations executive director Vicki Telfer wrote in her decision.
“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.”
The decision was welcomed by Bernie Smith, NSW/ACT secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA union).
“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 said.
“So we’re pleased but there’s more work to be done and we want the Berejiklian Government to give us back our Boxing Day.”
In a tweet Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said staff should have the day off.
“Businesses should do everything they can to ensure staff have the day off to spend with their families,” he wrote.
Dominic Perrottet tweet: I can confirm the application from Woolworths to have its staff pack shelves on Christmas Day has been refused by the NSW Government. My view is businesses should do everything they can to ensure staff have the day off to spend with their families. #nswpol //bit.ly/2BowjkN
Several thousand employees would have been affected by the decision had it gone the other way, according to the SDA union.
“About 4,000 to 5,000 people would have been requested to work or required to work,” Mr Smith said.
Woolworths denied employees would have been required to work.
In a statement earlier this month, a spokesperson said supermarkets would not stock the shelves if volunteers couldn’t be found.
“As in other states and territories, only those who wish to work will be rostered on,” they said.
“In the event sufficient voluntary labour cannot be sourced for a store, Woolworths will simply not conduct these activities at that store.”
“There will be no adverse impact for any team member who doesn’t want to work on Christmas Day.”
In a statement, Woolworths said they were disappointed with the decision
“While we’re disappointed with the outcome, we respect the process and decision by NSW Industrial Relations,” a spokesperson said.
“Our store replenishment activity will cease on Christmas Eve across New South Wales in line with the Act.”