It’s a fact, but it is worth remembering that no one will die if large shops are closed on Boxing day. So why do we allow them to be open?
That’s precisely the question retail staff and their families have asked. A group of workers have launched an online petition calling for a Boxing Day ban and to allow “staff time off” to spend it with their families.
But most liberals – on the left or right of the political spectrum – would argue that consumers are exercising their freedom to shop whenever they want.
What they forget is that they exercise this so-called right on the backs of some very low-paid workers, who are being exploited and denied the freedom to have two days of rest with their families, like most of us have.
But many will feel indifferent about those retail workers that have to work until late on Christmas Eve and then work again from 6am on Boxing day.
But will these aficionados of a good bargain understand the plea of working class people that are forced to work that day?
An insider speaks
Scisco Media spoke to ‘Julie’ (not her real name) who works for a big retailer in the Greater Manchester area. She spoke about her working conditions, and how working on Boxing Day impacts her family.
I (work) a full day. I start at 6 am. I always ask to be on the early though as it’s better for me.
We don’t get a choice of whether to work or not. We have to. Everyone has too. If you phone in sick you would be ” managed” for it.
For some of our big retailers, workers are worth less than the profit they expect to make during so-called crazy Boxing Day sales.
But for Julie, like many others retail workers in her situation, working on Boxing Day doesn’t even give her a little extra.
We don’t get any extra pay. Obviously I see less of my family that day and would prefer not to work it but I knew I would be expected to work Boxing Day when I joined. Well, I see less of them on that day and we can’t plan to do anything as I only know what shift I will be doing two weeks beforehand.
Being forced to work on Boxing Day and not knowing what will be her working hours, means that Julie will not see her family, will not spend more quality times with her children while most shoppers have the choice to stay at home or to go out.
I understand that it’s the busiest time of the year but waiting one more day before the sales start wouldn’t really impact on what goes through the till as people only have a finite amount of money.
And she is right. Shoppers don’t have more money to spend on that day. But it also tells a lot about the moral bankruptcy of our society.
Boxing Day servitude
It’s coming to something when in 21st century Britain we can’t give the right that indentured servants had hundreds of years ago.
People have the right to spend time with their families and for most of us, Christmas is a very important family time. The only reason why large shops are open on Boxing day is because retail companies want to make more profit.
It’s their greed before our families, the profit of their shareholders before retail workers.
Workers, regardless of their beliefs, have a right to have holidays and to spend time with the people they love. But some liberals may well claim that ‘family values’ are overrated, and calling to protect them, to cherish them, makes you a Conservative.
Consumption, consumption, consumption
No. Family values are essential and calling to respect them is both morally and politically important. Solidarity, love, respect – those are the true family values that all working class families want to be protected; against those who only see their employees as a means to make more profit for themselves.
It is essential that we respect those important values, especially when most of us have to work long hours. During the two days over Christmas. we need to be able to stop working, stop buying and stop making fat cat bosses even richer.
As Julie said:
Put it this way. I’d rather be off on Boxing Day but I knew I would have to work it when I joined. And as I say, everyone has to work it. But yes, I do think Boxing Day should be an enforced holiday, but I just think in general it affects society, all this consumption! Money is god! All wrong.
Julie is right. It’s time that we put family time back on the political agenda. The shops are open enough days and longer hours the rest of the year for people to do their shopping. Common sense must prevail for once.