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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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# parking charges
'It's like a pay cut': Liffey Valley staff say new parking charges could cost some workers €12.50 a day
Liffey Valley staff have been protesting outside the shopping centre since Sunday.

THIS WEEK MARKED THE introduction of parking charges in Dublin’s Liffey Valley, at a potential cost of up to €12.50 per day after 24 years of free parking.

The new system is part of a €30 million investment in the parking infrastructure of the centre, which serves its locality of South-West Dublin and beyond, taking in a footfall of several million shoppers each year. 

While a statement by the management contends that “it is largely understood and accepted that the delivery of enhanced customer experience will ultimately benefit these businesses and their staff”, the formation of the Liffey Valley Workers Against Staff Car Park Charges suggests that such a consensus has yet to be reached.

Staff have been told that they can access parking in a designated car park for a much lower daily rate – but on the first day of the new regime it quickly became clear that the staff car park was far too small, meaning some workers had to pay up to €12.50 for parking. 

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, who has been supporting the protesting workers, says that even the €2.50 daily tariff represents “up to a €600 pay cut for those affected, some of whom have been working at the shopping centre for decades”. 

According to an FAQ document handed out to tenant businesses and seen by The Journal,  “the retailer discounted rate of €2.50 per trip is only applicable to registered and approved members of retail staff using the designated staff car parks”. 

As things stand, those workers who don’t make it into the staff car park end up paying €12.50 in parking fees for a full day of work, and an additional €2.50 if their shift goes on past 6pm.

On day one, this concern was actualised. One young man, working full-time in the shopping centre, said that by 9.15am Monday morning, the several hundred spaces allocated for staff parking were full. His claim was backed up by video footage posted on Facebook. 

“Over Christmas, your day might not start at 9am, but at 11am, 12pm, even 5pm… Those people will have to park in the general car park,” an employee explained to The Journal at Liffey Valley on Monday. 

“The staff car park is currently full, and this is the quietest time of the week.”

The FAQ document from centre management confirms that staff parking operates on a “first come, first served” basis.

Meanwhile, there have been separate teething issues with the implementation of charges. The shopping centre has accepted that some staff who did park in the staff car park were overcharged on Monday, and has promised to reimburse them.

Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, which is a separate entity to Liffey Valley Retail Park, is managed by property firm Hines on behalf of its owner, German pension fund Bayerische Versorgungskammer.

Frustrated staff 

Aggrieved staff have pointed out that the new system is both ticketless and cashless, using video monitoring to apply charges to registration plates – something they say should make it easier to ensure staff, many of whom are on the minimum wage, are not paying up to €12.50 a day for parking.

One worker noted: “They have our registration numbers. Why can’t they make sure all staff get the €2.50 discount? Why can’t they issue us with a parking card?”

Protestors who spoke to this website said they had not been given an opportunity to raise their issues directly with management. 

They also point to discrepancies with other local shopping centres, such as Blanchardstown, where parking is free for customers and staff, or The Square, where staff pay €100 a year in two instalments to use the car park.

Under Liffey Valley’s new regime, that would cover just 40 days worth of parking – assuming that the employee could access the employee car park. 

Some female employees also raised other anxieties.

One employee said that she’d been asked why she couldn’t simply get the bus to and from work. She pointed out that as the evenings become darker, many employees don’t feel safe walking the distances required to make what is often a two-bus journey to and from home.

Concerns over safety extended to those who would have to walk the length of the shopping centre after dark when the interior of the centre is closed. Currently, the designated staff car park is at the opposite end of the car park to Marks & Spencer, one of Liffey Valley’s largest employers, where many staff will be working until 11pm and beyond over the Christmas period.

Responding to The Journal, the centre rejected these concerns, saying: “As there is 24/7 access to the centre with security presence and a dedicated staff entry point at the designated car park, there is no issue regarding the safety of staff and there is no requirement for staff to walk in the dark outside of the Centre”

It is a claim that was met with open scepticism by protestors, who do not believe the security measures are sufficient. 

m&s

Asked whether centre management would be agreeing to a sit-down with protestors, Liffey Valley Shopping Centre said: “Where staff have questions or specific concerns, the first point of contact for resolving these must be with their own employer.”

Some staff involved in the protest were reluctant to share their names and places of work because of potential problems that may arise with their employers. Others noted that store managers had been amongst those protesting and lending solidarity to the demonstrators, comprised primarily of service and retail staff. 

Ken Reilly, an organiser at Mandate Trade Union, which represents around 1,000 Liffey Valley workers, told The Journal that there are plans for a public petition to urge shopping centre management into talks with workers.

“Staff are being told to talk to their employers, but it’s not the tenants of the shopping centre who are setting these prices.”

“At this time of year, most shopping centres will be getting ready to welcome Santa, but it seems like Scrooge has already arrived at Liffey Valley,” Reilly said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin weighed in on the dispute during Leader’s Questions on Tuesday, saying that while it was a matter for “normal partnership arrangements” to resolve, “having an imposition on employees going to work is a difficult one to comprehend.”

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