Thousands of shop workers in Victoria were forced to work on Easter Sunday this year as a result of changes to the law brought in by the Liberal/National State Government.
Previously in Victoria, Good Friday and Easter Sunday were ‘shop closing days’. Easter Saturday and Easter Monday were public holidays that permanent workers had the right to take off at full pay. Many workers took this opportunity to have a four day break from work to see their friends and family or go away.
By Kirk Leonard, Socialist Party
In late in March the Coalition pushed changes through parliament which saw Easter Sunday switch from a shop closing day to a normal Sunday trading day. Workers who usually work on Sundays can now be forced to work in the middle of Easter therefore ruining the four day break. This has shattered one of the few opportunities that many workers have for a brief holiday each year.
This change has been driven by the big retail and fast food giants like Coles, Woolworths and McDonalds who hope to rake in millions of dollars in profits at a time when Melbourne is swarming with tourists. The Coalition, who acts as big business representatives, was more than happy to push through the law on behalf of their paymasters.
The facts are that under capitalism the main aim of these privately owned companies is to generate mega-profits for the super rich. Everything else is secondary including workers rights and conditions like time off at Easter.
In reality this major attack on the rights of shop workers could have been stopped if the country’s biggest union, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), had of organised a campaign. Pathetically all the SDA leaders were able to come up with was one media release and a few phone calls to beg the government to have a meeting with them.
The SDA, with more than 200,000 members, could potentially be very powerful if the members were mobilised into action. Unfortunately, rather than fighting, the current SDA leaders prefer to do dodgy deals with the retail giants in return for them promoting SDA membership in their stores. Their main aim is to use their size to influence the Labor Party and get their people elected to cushy jobs in parliament.
In order to stop employers winding back conditions shop workers need fighting representation. In the long run shop workers need to replace the current batch of SDA leaders with people that genuinely represent their interests. As a step towards this fast food and retail workers in Victoria should join UNITE. This presence of a fighting union in the sector will help strengthen the opposition to the SDA leaders and show shop workers what can be done with a campaigning approach.