Market traders fear for their health and their businesses over a plan that effectively forces them to work till 8pm three days a week till Christmas.
Some Shambles Market stallholders say they will close rather than be ‘trapped’ until late due to new access arrangements.
Others say the timetable would see them working 16-hour days, putting their health at risk.
Make It York has told traders they will not be given vehicle access to the market until 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 6pm on other nights, from this week until Christmas.
This is a health and safety measure due to the number of people in the city centre during the St Nicholas Fair market.
Kevin Tuohy, chair of the Shambles Market Business Improvement Group, described the situation as ‘absolute madness’:
These are unjust hours. They’re basically servitude – forcing someone to work.
We’re self-employed. Our contracts stipulate we work from 9 till 5, everything else is goodwill.
To be told we can’t come in till 8 o’clock has ramifications for such as fruit and veg traders who are on the road at 4am. If they’re not going to leave the market till 9 at night, that’s a 16-17 hour day.
It’s against our human rights.
Nick Roberts, who runs the Crystals And Fossils stall, told YorkMix: “It’s absolutely outrageous. We’re up in arms.”
He said a permit system, allowing traders special access to and from the stalls, had worked in the past. An updated version of the permits, with photo ID, had been suggested to Make It York this year.
“The police have no problem with it, but Make It York said, no, not interested – they didn’t want to know.”
Kevin said other vehicles – such as waste collection vans – were being allowed in at these times.
And he worried about the safety and legality of the new system.
There will be 40-plus vehicles coming in at 8pm. People will be tired, they’ll be frustrated, they’ll want to get home.
With York being the Christmas party capital and hen and stag dos and everything else, trying to drive on Church Street with 40 vehicles at 8 o’clock on a Saturday evening wil be absolute chaos.
It’s a recipe for disaster.
Sheila’s Greengrocers have tweeted that they will not operate on Thursdays till next January.
Make It York says no one has to work till 8pm – but traders say they can’t leave their stalls unattended because stock could be stolen.
Kevin said: “We feel absolutely dismayed that there’s been no negotiation. We feel undervalued.”
Another trader, who didn’t want to be named, said: “We are not moany or negative. We’re hopeless optimists – we wouldn’t work in this way otherwise.
“All we want to do is get on with Christmas and work together to make the market the best it could be.”
Make It York’s respons
“The Christmas offer in the city continues to be incredibly popular and as a result of the increased footfall during this particularly busy period we have to ensure that the city centre remains a safe and enjoyable space for all.
“Following feedback from previous years and advice from local and national safety experts, we have implemented various measures to ensure the safety of those coming into the city centre.
“These include a new layout of the Christmas market to help the flow of people visiting the stalls, additional break-out space, and a number of other measures including road closures.
“At a recent meeting with Shambles Market traders and their representatives we explained that the advice from our retained experts was that, due to the volume of people in the city centre, it would not be safe to allow any vehicles to access Shambles Market before 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the duration of the Christmas market.
“At that meeting Make It York agreed to consider suggested alternative arrangements, however, having done so, the advice on public safety remains the same.
“Traders are not required to work until 8pm, but vehicles cannot enter the Shambles Market until this time. We do understand the concerns the traders have and we are continuing to work to find ways to minimise any impact.
“Make It York’s paramount responsibility and concern is to ensure that those working in the city and attending the Christmas markets can do so in a safe environment and the measures being rolled out this year are in response to this.”