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Sunday trading hours: 92% of Belfast workers oppose extension


Trade unions are against extending Sunday trading hours

Trade unions are against extending Sunday trading hours

Trade unions are against extending Sunday trading hours

More than 90% of Belfast shopworkers are opposed to extending Sunday trading hours, according to a new survey.

A consultation on the issue carried out by Belfast City Council has recently closed.

In 2018, an attempt to designate the city centre as a "holiday resort" allowing it to extend Sunday trading hours was rejected by councillors.

Independent retailers and trade unions were against the move, arguing it would give an advantage to multi-national companies and adversely affect workers.

A survey carried out by shopworkers' union Usdaw found that 92% of its members felt that shops should not open longer on Sundays, while more than two-thirds said they have previously come under pressure to work on Sundays.

Usdaw has a membership of around 410,000, with more than 18,300 members in Northern Ireland. A total of 1,263 workers took part in the survey.

A total of 61% of respondents said the main issue of working on Sundays was it meant less time with family and friends.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said they were "fully committed" to working with the council on improving the weekend retail experience for tourists, but were firmly against extending Sunday trading hours.

“Allowing large stores to open for longer hours on Sundays would have a negative impact on retail workers, their families and our communities," he said.

"Longer Sunday trading would take a heavy toll on staff who would come under even more pressure to work, when they would rather be spending time with family and engaging in community, sports, and leisure activities or attending church.

“There would also be a detrimental impact on smaller retailers who can already open longer hours on Sundays."

Mr Lillis said these traders rely on a boost in trade on Sunday mornings and those in favour of extending opening hours "have not been able to show it will lead to economic benefits or job creation".

Under current legislation larger shops (those bigger that 280 square metres) are only allowed to open from 1pm to 6pm on Sundays.

Two previous consultations on the issue found there was a slight majority of 52% in favour of extending Sunday trading hours for bigger shops.

Mr Lillis said opening shops for longer on Sundays "does not mean people have more money to spend".

"We all want to see a strong and diverse retail sector, but that means striking the right balance," he added.

“We urge city councillors to listen to the majority of shopworkers and retailers who do not want extended Sunday trading."

When councillors rejected extending Sunday trading hours in 2018, Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts proposed setting up a "Small Shop Sunday" campaign.

The campaign would encourage shoppers and tourists to support Belfast’s smaller retailers on a Sunday morning between 11am to 1pm, allowing large retailers to continue to trade from 1pm onwards.

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