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Businesses and shoppers want stores open on stat holidays, but employees would rather not work them

Consumers and retailers agree County businesses should have a choice to open on statutory holidays, but employees say no, and so far, few would choose to work them if they had that choice.

Council, at a special meeting before council’s regular meeting, heard some public feedback on exceptions to the Retail Business Holidays Act, as Trevor Crowe, Community Development Co-ordinator, provided an update on some feedback to a municipal survey that is ongoing until March 13.

The municipality is reviewing two bylaws that allow retail businesses to sell goods and services on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day.

The municipality is considering adding Family Day and also naming Easter Monday to the exception list.

In its current form (2017), the RBHA restricts most retail establishments from opening on nine specified days each year, unless they are exempted by the legal authority of a single‐tier municipality. These statutory holidays include: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Crow’s report notes Section 1.2 of the Retail Business Holidays Act, creates the opportunity for Prince Edward County to establish an independent, made‐in‐the County approach to managing retail business holiday closures for the purposes of maintenance and development of tourism.

In 2008, a bylaw was passed to permit County retail businesses to operate on certain statutory holidays – Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, and Thanksgiving Day. In 2010 it added Good Friday.

There have been 325 surveys completed as of March 4 – by 242 customers, 48 employers and 35 business owners.

Asking if retailers in the County should have flexibility to choose whether to to be open or closed on statutory holidays, 240 consumers indicated ‘yes’ at 58.33 per cent and ‘no’ at 41.67 per cent. Eighty-nine people skipped the question.

From responses, Crowe shared two comments reflecting answers.

“Yes: Many tourisits visit the County on long weekends and it wold be very good for businesses to remain open.”

“No: Retail workers have lives and families too and should be able to spend time with them.”

Of 36 employees who responded to the question, 55.56 per cent said ‘no’ to retailers having the flexibility to be open or closed.

“No: Retail workers should have the right to holidays like so many other businesses. Please don’t take away our only guaranteed days with our families,” stated one response Crowe shared.

“Yes: Part-time workers need all the available working hours possible,” stated one response of 44.44 per cent in agreement.

Eighty-one percent of 27 retailers wanted the choice to stay open, while 18 per cent answered ‘no’.

“Yes: It is hard enough as a small business. We should be able to take advantage of potential customers if they are intrested in purchasing our services. The tourist market is essential to the survival of most retail stores in the County,”

“No: Store owners need a break too. We’re open through the whole summer and at Christmas too. Please let us keep just a few precious days a year off.”

Crowe also noted in his report there is a right for most employees to refuse to work on public holidays under the Employment Standards Act even if the employee does not qualify for the public holiday.

His report adds that if an employee has agreed electronically or in writing to work on a public holiday, the employee can later decline to work on that day by giving the employer at least 48 hours notice before the employee’s work on the public holiday was to begin.

Picton Sobeys franchisee owner Jamie Yeo, provided the sole comment from audience, noting he is not on board for adding Family Day as another day for stores to be open. He told council he regrets being open Easter Sunday and echoed councillors’ comments that employees don’t want to be there and may not feel empowered to pursue their right to request the day off.

“I’m happy with the way things are now,” said Yeo. “And I’m in the same boat. My staff are tired and they need those days of rest. They look forward to Family Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. So I myself wouldn’t be on board for opening Family Day.”

Regarding that right to refuse, Yeo stated the store has been opening on statutory holidays for so long “you kind of forget that law and do start scheduling people… Canada Day and Labour Day are such busy days and you go ahead and schedule it. If too many people take that day off, somebody has to work it. You forget you can’t make them work it… I don’t think we need to open any more than we already are.”

A full report with recommendations will be coming to council March 24.

Meanwhile, the online survey continues until March 13. (Click here for survey)

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  1. Marc says:

    I used to think that Remembrance Day should be a holiday, but in the end I think it’s better for schools to be open on Remembrance Day. It’s too important a teaching moment.

  2. Angela says:

    Interesting that in the days the RBHA restricts retail businesses from opening Remembrance Day is not among them. We would not be celebrating all of those other holidays were it not for the sacrifices made by our soldiers of two World Wars. Most local stores keep those cash registers ringing on Nov, 11, even at 11 a.m. They should at least close long enough for staff to attend Remembrance Day services.

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