Less pay, less shopping
Government employees take cut, retailers bleed

by Marty Brown
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 27/96) - The imposed five-days-without-pay mandatory time off, popularly known as "Donny Days," is having an effect on the retail business this season.

Named after Premier Don Morin, the scheme was part of the contract that employees settled on in the fall.

But this season, retailers agreed that time off without pay is bad news for them.

After all, 25 to 30 per cent of the total year's business is done at Christmas.

"I'm not whining but five days without pay has to have an effect. Combine that with cheap air fares to Edmonton and Calgary and it adds up," said Sue Glowach, owner of the Elves Workshop and Forget Me Nots, a gift and clothing store.

Glowach is concerned the government is not looking at the long-term effects of the cut-backs.

"There are real concerns with everyone budgeted so tight," she said. And she's not just referring to staffing and hoping she bought the right stock.

"If the money's not there, it's not there," she said.

Carlos Gonzalez, owner of Our Place Restaurant and Lounge, said that morale in the town is low right now.

"Our business is good but there is less disposable income and that's bound to affect us," he said.

Roy Williams, proprietor of Yellowknife's Radio Shack, has been in business for 23 years.

"It's interesting that whenever there's a layoff or a cut, people stop buying for two weeks, then they get over it," he said.

Retailers get into people's psyche and they have to have to make changes he said.

"Are we doing what we did last year? No, we are not. We have to adjust," Williams said.

And how's business? November started off with a big bang. Williams has sold a few 50-inch television sets but he's not getting too excited. He's been in business during some very heady times and some very bad times.

He thinks government employees may not be spending but are socking money away in RSPs for their retirement in British Columbia. Those not taking a retirement package are talking about Donny Days as they line up at Williams' till to pay for TVs or CD players.

Pay cuts will affect two-thirds of government employees.

Although five days off with no pay may be tough, the government is spreading it out. Three days worth of pay will be deducted from the pay period ending Dec. 27, and two days will come off the Jan. 10 paycheque.