A VETERAN businessman in Fremantle’s West End wants traders to organise and strike for fairer rents.
A number of traders have exited the port city citing crippling rents by greedy landlords.
Bodkins Bootery owner Robert Bodkin, who pays $4600 a month rent for his shop in High Street, says he is struggling to survive.
“Frankly it is time retail tenants formed a union and went on strike for fair rents,” he told the Herald.
“United without fear of tenancy loss, rents should be coming down.
“As retailers we are competing with the world.
“There needs to be somebody acting as conduit, but then the problem is if I say I’m not paying the rent, where am I going to go? If I leave here, I haven’t got a business anymore.”
Mr Bodkin, who has operated his shop since 1972, says landlords bleed tenants dry without putting a lick of paint on their buildings.
“Landlords down here won’t spend money on new verandahs, they won’t spend money on the premises,” he told the Herald. “Here you could go through the floor if you jumped up and down.
“If my rent was half the price, which isn’t going to happen, I could afford to put new carpet in, and I could afford to do things that I can’t do now.”
Mr Bodkin says the council isn’t doing anything to help.
“I don’t think they understand the West End is isolated and these new signs—what the fuck are they?” he spat, referring to the modern black signs that’ve sprung up in recent weeks. “They don’t mean a thing.”
The Herald spoke to eight traders in the West End: None would be named, fearing their landlords would boot them out.
Two thought forming a union was a “great idea” but were worried the group wouldn’t have much clout. One said he’d had no choice but to move after his landlord raised rent 95 per cent. His old shop has now been empty for 18 months.
“My rent was going to go up from $50,000 to $90,000 a year,” he said. “I tried to negotiate the rent, but she wouldn’t back down. Legally I don’t know about the union, because the landlord owns the business and they can do what they want.”
Collective Textiles owner Liz Dawes will close next month because she wants to do “business differently”.
“I’ve always been happy with my rent and landlord,” she smiled. “I’m going online, because sometimes you need to look at doing business in a different way.”
by BRENDAN FOSTER