Derry & Strabane District Council have been urged to refuse to extend shopping hours on a Sunday.
Officials from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) have warned councillors that any such move had the potential to impact negatively on retail workers across the city and district in terms of life quality and family commitments.
A deputation from Usdaw told the Council’s Health and Community Committee last week that evidence from elsewhere showed that extending opening hours would not result in increased trade, or jobs. They were also told it would impact on small, independent retailers reliant on Sunday trade.
Belfast City Council have already voted to reject proposals to extend trading hours on 18 Sundays of the year. Under legislation dating back to 1996, opening hours for traders could be extended if holiday resort designation was applied to the city and district. At present, larger retailers locally are permitted to open between 1pm and 6pm on Sundays.
Paddy Lillis, Deputy General Secretary of Usdaw, said: “There is no benefit to extending Sunday trading. It doesn’t bring in any more money to the economy and it doesn’t bring any more jobs.
“Men and women who work in shops need some respite. The other issue for us is that predominantly, the employees in retail are women with child caring responsibility and caring responsibilities in general.
“Extending hours in larger stores is going to involve individuals being pressurised into working hours they don’t want to work.”
He added that 15 years ago there was half-day closing on Wednesdays and Saturdays and no trading on Sundays. “We all coped,” he said.
Michaela Lafferty, Usdaw area organiser, said she herself had worked for many years in retail in Wellworths in Strabane.
She said that if Sunday opening hours were extended “sales will only move from mid-week to Sunday.”
She said that as a result, people would be made to change their work shifts and will be forced to “take that time away from their families”.
“Enough is enough: that’s the message we are getting from our members.”
Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly claimed any such move to extend Sunday opening hours could “jeopardise contracts and push people into zero hour contracts.”
He said: “This is something would be opposed to.”
DUP Councillor Hilary McClintock said: “We have seen the situation where 24 hour trading hasn’t worked and there is only a finite amount of money here.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Eric McGinley said it was “commendable” that they union had built the case around data and facts. “We have a responsibility to take that onboard,” he said.
SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack said that there were deep concerns regarding mental health issues locally, that a major factor in this was people who were not happy in their work, people being overworked and stressed at their work.