Workers, union members and local politicians rallied outside Westfield Carousel to protest owner Scentre Group’s controversial decision to charge workers for parking.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), one of the largest unions in the country, organised the action on Tuesday morning outside the expanding façade of the shopping complex, which is currently undergoing a $235 million expansion.
A decision by Scentre Group to charge both shoppers and workers for parking caused outrage in May, with hundreds of people calling the charge an unfair pressure on retail workers, many of whom were on minimum wage.
SDA WA Assistant Secretary Ben Harris said what Scentre Group calls a “modest” charge would have a profound effect on full-time employees of Carousel’s stores.
“Our members are on modest incomes and, in the case of Carousel it will take up to $780 out of their household budgets,” he said.
“The Scentre proposal, in line with state planning policy, will hit retail and fast food workers hard.”
Myer employee Kim Abraham said Scentre Group had paid no attention to how much pressure the payment would have on worker’s wages, nor the limited staff parking already available.
“We don’t go there because we want to, we go because we have to. It’s our jobs,” she said.
“There is literally not enough parking for staff.
“David Jones opens in two weeks, and that’s 300 employees.
“The staff parking has 500 spots.
“And we’ve gone to Westfield management and said this, and the response we got was just, ‘if it’s a problem, we’ll look to it at a later date’.
“Well that doesn’t help us now. Not at all.”
Mr Harris said the SDA had received numerous reports from members who worked within Carousel since May, with many expressing indignation that they would have to give such a large chunk of their pay back to their place of work, especially since shoppers were only expected to pay after three hours.
“Retail and fast food workers report that public transport is not necessarily a viable option for them because their shifts cover times when public transport is not available,” he said.
“Additionally, those who have caring responsibilities point how impractical it is to do school drop-offs and pick-ups using public transport.
“These are the things that haven’t been considered when this framework was developed.”
The SDA had previously put blame on the Department of Transport for the push for paid parking, noting a 2016 decision to enforce stricter guidelines on commercial parking at shopping centres.
Mr Harris said the SDA would be taking a petition to Premier Mark McGowan, as Scentre Group’s decision had also raised fears similar plans would be put in place in other Perth shopping centres.
Member for Cannington and former SDA official Bill Johnston attended the rally, and used it as a platform to confront his federal Liberal counterpart Steve Irons over worker’s rights policies.
“It’s clear that this is an important issue for the community especially while the Turnbull Government is stripping retail workers of their penalty rates,” he said.
“The local Federal Member Steve Irons does not seem interested in this, and he voted to slash penalty rates for these workers.”