Minimum wage and part-time workers at the McArthurGlen designer shopping mall at YVR are being forced to cough up $70 a month for parking.
Since the outlet — which is close to the Templeton Canada Line station — opened around 18 months ago, about 70 mall employees, who can’t take public transit, have been parking their cars on a spare strip of YVR-owned land to the west of the shopping complex.
But, as of May 1, the airport will implement and enforce pay parking at $4 for four hours at the spare strip which could, ultimately, price out some part-time, retail employees working for the provincial, $10.85 an hour minimum wage.
With McArthurGlen refusing to provide staff parking in its vast, free, 2,000-plus customer lot, the only option remaining for staff, who have to drive to the mall, is to pay the airport the $69.88 a month for a decal to park at Templeton station.
Sandra Hum, 58, who has been working part-time in a jewelry store at the mall since last fall, said there was no mention of any charges for parking during the interviewing and hiring process.
“I find it ironic and unfair that customers park for free and retail employees, working at or near minimum wage and many working only part-time, have to pay to park,” Hum told the Richmond News.
“The people who can least afford it are the ones who have to pay.”
Another retail employee, who asked not to be named due to her company’s policy, said the reason she came to work at the mall was because it was closer to her Richmond home.
“I came here to cut down on transit costs. Lots of other malls have designated parking for staff,” she said.
A store manager, who also asked not to be named for similar reasons, said she feels for her staff.
“I used to work at Metrotown (in Burnaby) and it has parking for employees. Our parking lot here is very seldom full,” said the woman, who suggested not allowing staff to park alongside the customers was all about appearances.
“We’re not even allowed to accept UPS deliveries of an envelope during opening hours. It’s very strict.
“Seventy dollars is a big hit for part-time employees.”
Hum — who lives in East Richmond and would have to transfer three times over 90 minutes to take public transit to the mall — said she was told by mall administration that it was “in the lease that store employee parking is not provided” and that “everyone working on Sea Island pays for parking.
“They said ‘it’s just like working downtown;’ but it’s not downtown and it’s not like downtown, at all. It’s Richmond and it’s a retail mall,” she added.
“Comparing with other Richmond retail malls, Richmond Centre, Lansdowne Mall, and even Tsawwassen Mills in Delta, parking is free for customers and employees.”
Hum also pointed out that some of her shifts finish at 10 p.m. and the thought of having to walk the near-kilometre in the dark to Templeton station to get to her car doesn’t fill her with joy.
When asked why some staff spaces couldn’t be accommodated in the customer parking lot, a spokesperson for McArthurGlen said the “shopper’s experience is of the utmost importance and the addition of employee parking would disrupt the limited availability of parking space available.
“There are approximately 600 employees working for our 67 brand partners and this will likely increase as we move into the busy summer months.”
Hum pointed out the 2,000-plus customer parking lot is “very rarely any more than half full.
“…the only exceptions being Black Friday and Boxing Day, but that would be true of all Richmond malls.”
She added, not all 600 workers drive to the mall and many work on different shifts, so they wouldn’t all be there at the same time.
In an emailed statement, McArthurGlen said that its “employee parking policy has been in effect and remained without change since the centre’s opening in 2015.
“All employees are informed of the parking options available at the Templeton Employee Parking Lot or are encouraged to take the Canada Line.
“Some employees have been parking near the end of Templeton Station Road, where parking signage indicates this is not permitted. This has never been an authorized employee parking area.”
A spokesperson for YVR said that, since the opening of the mall, McArthurGlen employees were asked to park in the Templeton station lot, where YVR’s own employees park and also pay.
YVR said it was installing pay parking on the vacant strip of land to the west of the mall to “encourage easy access for restaurant patrons at the (mall).
“Across Sea Island, Vancouver Airport Authority has made a number of parking lots available for use by employees at organizations on Sea Island. Parking fees apply to all lots.”
Hum said, given the parking situation, she fears for the mall’s future ability to attract and keep good retail employees.