Union boss Peter O’Keefe has threatened to split from the Labor Party if there are any changes to Perth’s trading hours, in an escalating fight between one of the State’s biggest unions and Premier Mark McGowan.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association — which has 23,000 members and puts about $300,000 a year into WA Labor coffers — yesterday put itself on a collision course with Mr McGowan, who has hinted he will take a position of more trading hours to the next election.
Mr O’Keefe said the SDA’s management committee would be “absolutely furious” if there were any moves towards extending trading hours for the WA capital, saying “disaffiliation” from the Labor Party “would be an option”.
The Premier yesterday shot back, saying: “We don’t give in to threats and intimidation and I’d encourage Mr O’Keefe not to engage in that sort of conduct.
“I will certainly consider our (shopping hours) policies in the lead-up to the next election. We will always act in the public interest. We will consider it.
“One thing I am very clear on is that we won’t have 24-hour trading, and that is the Liberal Party position. In the lead-up to the next election, we will announce what our policy is.”
In an explosive interview with The Sunday Times, Mr O’Keefe re-iterated claims made in yesterday’s Weekend West that he had threatened to withdraw financial support for WA Labor unless Mr McGowan reduced this year’s Christmas shopping hours.
He also provided more damning details about conversations he claimed to have had with the Premier, and other members of his party, earlier this year — before September’s controversial decision to cut back extend shopping hours in December by 30 per cent.
“I said that we wanted the Christmas trading hours changed,” Mr O’Keefe said.
“We had some particular concerns around trading on New Year’s Day, for example, and we had issues with 7am starts and we had issues around other public holidays as well, because the Labor Party has continued to do what the Liberals did.
“I put the case over eight to nine months over a series of meetings. It was clear there was an impasse so I thought, ‘There has to be a way of breaking this impasse’.
“So we then made it clear to anyone who listened that we wouldn’t be doing any fundraising or donating to any State campaigns until we got a fix on this. The exact words (to the Premier) were, ‘The SDA will not be participating in any fundraising activities for the State Labor Party, or donating to any State campaigns, while the issue of trading hours remains unresolved’.”
Under the changes, 7am shopping does not start until December 17, compared with December 5 last year. Mr McGowan denied he had done any favours for the SDA.
“Clearly, we didn’t do what they (union) would have liked, and secondly, I have no knowledge and no recollection of fundraising (discussions),” he said. “They want no additional trading. I fundamentally disagree with them, particularly in that period where people are focused on shopping before Christmas.”