Market traders have taken their case over ‘unworkable’ Christmas hours to Make It York.
A group of traders handed over a petition of more than 1,500 names to the organisation on Friday (22 November), asking for it to overturn new rules meaning traders have to work till 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until Christmas.
They were accompanied by Labour councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick and Labour parliamentary candidate for York Central, as well as Sarah Sketchley, who launched the petition.
The petition states:
We believe that the measures put in place cause unnecessary suffering to valued members of the York community, are potentially unsafe due to excessive working hours, and may leave the council open to legal challenge due to breach of contract, thereby costing council tax payers money which could be better used.
We strongly feel that Make It York are being unreasonable in refusing to listen to the other side of the argument, and in refusing
Make It York managing director Sean Bullick wasn’t available to accept the petition. But a representative from the company accepted it on his behalf, and said they would respond as soon as possible.
New regulations brought in by Make It York mean traders have no vehicle access to the market until 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 6pm on other nights, from this week until Christmas.
They say this is a public safety measure, but stallholders say it means they would be working up to 16-hour days in contravention to their contract and putting their own health at risk.
Petition organiser Sarah Sketchley said at the handover:
I have nothing to do with the market except that I shop there.
This temporary market is being prioritised over people who are here day in, day out the whole year round.
It seems unreasonable and illogical that you’re not listening to the advice of people who know – like the police and the council’s own transport department, who ran a successful access scheme last year.
Cllr Andrew Waller, Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, said: “Whilst this option would allow some traders to leave earlier and others to stay, we appreciate that this will still present difficulties for some established market traders at the end of a very long day and we are still pressing Make It York to consider other options.”
Kevin Tuohy, chair of Shambles Market Business Group, said:
The proposed closure until eight o’clock is unworkable for a whole host of reasons. Not only have we said it but they’ve said it on this petition as well.
What we are pushing for is a six o’clock finish for the traders for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Negotiations with the traders would be nice. If Sean would like to discuss market aspects with us traders please feel free to do so.
And Rachael Maskell said: “I use the market and many of us do, it’s really important to all of us. We would urge you to think again, have some common sense on this and see what is possible – I do believe a solution can be found.”
Make It York have previously said that they appreciated the traders’ position, but “our paramount responsibility and concern is to ensure that everyone who works and lives in the city and those who are attending the Christmas markets can do so in a safe environment – and the measures being rolled out this year are in response to this”.