New parking charges at the Liffey Valley retail centre mean that workers earning at or near the minimum wage have been given a pay cut in the middle of the cost-of-living crisis, participants in a protest at the west Dublin shopping centre said on Sunday.
The centre, which until recently had free parking for customers and staff, introduced pay parking on October 17th, including a €2.50 per day rate for staff who leave their car in a designated overflow car park.
Workers say, however, this means a new bill of up to €600 per year for staff. This could be even higher if they cannot find a place in the overflow car park, which is also open to the public, and have to pay the day rate for customers, which is €12.50.
Many of the workers at the protest said they needed to drive to work so they could drop off and collect their children in the mornings and afternoons.
One woman, who has been working at the centre for 22 years, said the new charges mean her first hour of work each week is just so she can pay for parking.
“For most of the women that work here, €12.50 would be an hour’s pay,” said the woman, who starts work at 7am.
A spokesperson for Liffey Valley said the new parking arrangements “have been working positively throughout this week, with customers and staff making a successful transition over to the new system.” They noted that there had been spaces available in the overflow car park.
John Ennis, who has been working at the centre for 23 years, said the employees had kept retail outlets open right through the Covid-19 pandemic. He claimed the centre’s management will not engage with the workers or their employers.
A woman who has been working at Liffey Valley for 11 years said she drives her child to school every morning and then comes to the centre to start work at 9 am.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” said the woman, who works five four-hour shifts each week, and earns €320 a week after tax. “An extra €12.50 [from her wages] is not small. It’s hard enough being a single parent. I’m trying to do the best I can.”
Another woman, who drives from Co Kildare, drops her child into the child minder, and then goes to her job in the Liffey Valley centre, said an extra €600 a year from her income was “huge”.
“Everything has gone up recently. I’ve just got back from maternity leave and then to be handed such a hefty charge for parking my car.”
“I think it’s a disgrace,” said another woman who has been working for the same retailer at the centre the past decade. “In the Square in Tallaght, the workers pay just €100 a year for parking, in two instalments.
Ken Reilly, of Mandate trade union, said they had approximately 1,000 members at the centre, most of whom are low paid with some on the minimum wage.
“Six hundred euros a year coming straight after the Government announced cost of living alleviation measures in the Budget, and it is just being taken off them, straight away.”
Local Sinn Féin deputy Mark Ward said: “A bill of €600 on top of the cost-of-living increases and so on, it is just not sustainable. It will drive people out of their jobs.”
“It is a very unfair imposition,” said local People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny. “It is tantamount to a pay cut.”
“No-one is interacting with us,” said Nathalie Reilly, of the Liffey Valley Action Group, who has been working at the centre for the past four years. “We need the Taoiseach to intervene.”
A Liffey Valley Shopping Centre spokesperson said staff parking facilities “are available in pre-designated areas of the centre for €2.50 per trip. Sign-up by staff for the discounted rate of €2.50 per trip has been in line with the projected registration rate envisaged for this group. Staff members with any residual concerns about the new arrangements are being urged to engage directly with their employers on the matter.
“We are happy to confirm that there has been available capacity in the designated areas for staff parking (blue and green overflow car parks) at all times since Monday last.”
The spokesman added that there had been “and continues to be extensive communication regarding these changes with all our stakeholders including with our retailers. It is largely understood and accepted that the delivery of an enhanced customer experience will ultimately benefit the retail businesses at Liffey Valley and their staff. The changes are already resulting in a much-improved parking experience for all, and we believe has already reduced the number of commuters and frequent parkers who neither visited nor worked at the centre.”