Yesterday, as part of our commitment to protecting and speaking out for human dignity, time with family and just working conditions the JPO stood in solidarity with retail workers, union, and faith and political leaders to call for Boxing Day to be returned to people. Last year trading restrictions on Boxing Day in NSW were extended so that many more retail workers are now asked to work that day. Though they can say no to the request many workers feel enormous pressure to say no to the requests, especially those in precarious employment situations.
Opening more shops on Boxing Day means many people don’t get to spend any significant time with family or friends on this special holiday. As NSW Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Asso-ciation Secretary Bernie Smith said yesterday in Martin Place, ‘retail workers already serve the community 361 and a half days a year what time they have left is precious […] close the shops – return them to families’. As Smith told the crowd changing the law is the job of the Government, but if we want time back for family and communities then each of us has to step up too and just not shop on Boxing Day.
Fr Peter Smith, Promoter of Justice in Peace in the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney also reminded the crowd that we must not continue on this path of reducing people to economic units of production. He said, ‘the Catholic Church has always recognised that people are not means to another end, but an end in themselves – valuable, loved and precious’.
Over the last few years the Justice and Peace Office has proudly worked alongside other faiths, denominations, unions and community organisations to raise the voice of civil society in discussions and campaigns around work issues, such as the Boxing Day trading issue and the possible reduction of Sunday penalty rates for some workers. In doing so, the JPO follows in the tradition of many Popes, Bishops and Church leaders of all kinds who have spoken loudly and clearly about the fact that ‘work exists for the person, not the person for work’. The Catholic Church has continually sought to protect and stand up for workers’ dignity by promoting a living family wage, safe and fair working conditions, and economic system that values the poor and above all the innate, inviolable dignity of every human being.
We will continue that tradition into next year as we support specific campaigns like Take the Time and Save our Weekend, but more than this, with your help, and God’s Grace we will work to make sure that a voice for God’s visions for each of us and for all Creation reaches into the debates and discussion about industrial relations in this city and State. We look forward to bring a spirit of hope, collaboration and united effort for the common good to our brothers and sisters in the labour movement and with our brothers and sisters in business.
To see videos of SDANSW Secretary Bernie Smith and Fr Peter Smith’s speeches click here.
Images: Justice and Peace Office. From top: SDA Leaders and Members calling to have Boxing Day returned; Rev Dr Raymond Joso (Uniting Church) and Rev Peter Smith (Catholic Church) talking near a Christmas tree decorated with baubles filled with everyday workers’ stories about losing Boxing Day; SDANSW Secretary Bernie Smith Addressing the crowd.