Thursday, December 14, 2006

Easter trading bills back

Earlier this year, two Member's Bills addressing Easter trading were drawn from the ballot: Jacqui Dean's Easter Sunday Shop Trading Amendment Bill and Steve Chadwick's Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal (Easter Trading) Amendment Bill. The former would have added Wanaka and Tauranga to the list of districts allowed to trade over Easter, while the latter would allow communities to decide for themselves, but only addressed Easter Sunday. A second difference was that Chadwick's bill contained protections for workers similar to those in the original Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal Act 1990, while Dean's bill would have left workers significantly worse off than before (see the respective "In the ballot" posts here and here).

Both bills passed their first reading with significant majorities and were forwarded to the Commerce Committee. The committee considered the bills in tandem, and has now reported them back [PDF], recommending that both be passed. However, they've made some changes. Both bills now have extremely robust worker protection clauses ensuring that workers cannot be forced to work over Easter, or discriminated against if they refuse. The scope of Dean's bill has also been extended to include every local authority in the country; it is expected that those that want to will opt out, with an amendment passed during the bill's Committee Stage. Unfortunately, under Standing Order 288, the committee was unable to take the obvious step of merging the bills, or incorporating the clearly superior local consultation provisions from Chadwick's bill into Dean's - so now we have the worst of both worlds: a bill which allows communities to decide for themselves, but which only affects Easter Sunday, or one which affects both days but leaves the decision in the hands of local councils with no scope for public consultation before the bill reaches committee. Hopefully this will be able to be addressed by a Supplementary Order Paper during the committee stage, allowing the best parts to be passed as one bill.

The issue as far as I'm concerned is really public holidays; neither bill amends the Holidays Act 2003, so if shops open on Good Friday workers are entitled to time and a half and a day in lieu (and under the protection provisions, cannot be forced to work). Unfortunately, no such protection exists for Easter Sunday, it being seen as unnecessary when shops were forbidden to open. But if we're going to have Easter in the Holidays Act, while at the same time allowing shops to open if they're willing to properly compensate their workers, then it strikes me that Easter Sunday should be given the same protection and be listed in s44. This would be irrelevant to most workplaces, as offices tend not to operate on a Sunday anyway (the Holidays Act only grants a paid day off if it is a day that would otherwise be a working day) - but it would ensure a level playing field between the two days. The select committee considered a consequential amendment to the Holidays Act to be "beyond the scope of [the] bill[s]", and I'm not sure if an SOP can be put to propose it. But it would be IMHO an excellent solution.

The bills will get their Second Reading in late February.


Call me old fashioned, but what is it with the addiction of shopping? Can't people manage - what is it, three? Four? - days a year without their fix at the dealers of consumption? Whats wrong with making the shops shut so we can as a SOCIETY share a collective day off? Is capitalism so terrified of offering the masses a day away from the dealers that it wants not even a glimpse of another way to be offered, ever? The bovine and banal nature of this particular societal obsession never ceases to amaze me when I observe it.

Posted by Sanctuary : 12/14/2006 09:45:00 AM

Call me a god-hating atheist, but why the fuck do we still have Easter as a compulsory holiday?

My proposal: Give every worker 5 days 'religious' holiday each year to use as they please. At the start of each year, workers would declare those five days to their boss. For each worker, the provisions of the Holiday Act would then apply to those days if they work them (of course, they can't be forced or face discrimination for those days).

Posted by Anonymous : 12/14/2006 10:41:00 AM

Greg: because we haven't got around to changing it, and most people don't see much point. Christian holidays will probably still be hanging on (in altered form) long after their religion is dead and buried. After all, that's effectively what Eostre and Yule have done through Christianity.

But seriously, if you want to change this, write to some MPs and propose a bill which changes s44 of the Holidays Act. The actual legislation wouldn't be technically difficult; persuading a majority of Parliament to give enough of a damn will be the hard part.

As for me, I think getting rid of Parliament's opening prayer is slightly higher up the priority list in terms of secularisation. If people want to pray before they go into the bear pit each afternoon, that's their own lookout - but the institution shouldn't be doing it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/14/2006 12:16:00 PM

sanctuary: I don't understand the outrage at making easter just like every other public holiday. What is so special about it (bearing in mind that NZ is supposedly not governed by religion)? Besides, the particular holiday is meaningless to an increasing proportion of the population.
The fact that we have ridiculous exceptions like those for 'holiday' towns and gas stations everywhere show jsut how stupid the situation is.

Why is it OK for me to buy petrol or milk, but not potting mix or seeds? Does your outrage extend to those who like to tend their garden?

In light of the complications/inconsistencies with the Holidays Act described by I/S; I'd say the best thing would be to eliminate all of the special Easter law and add Easter to the Holidays Act.

If you're a devout christian then spare a thought for all of the NZers of other religions who must work on their holy days.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/14/2006 05:13:00 PM

jim, petty details don't outrage me. I don't care that one foreign owned chain store can open and another can't. I have more important things to worry about.

The point is that the people who whinge about being unable to open on a Sunday are often the very same small business tories who bemoan the fracturing of society and the growth of a dislocated community with no sense of shared experience. To me, the impetus to shop on these sacred days of shared community come not from the working poor and young who staff the malls and cafes but from a spolit middle class.

Who gives a fuck about some inconsistancy? Its the price of struuggling to maintain something that all New Zealanders share whilst balancing that against the need to provide some services.

Posted by Sanctuary : 12/14/2006 09:10:00 PM

Yay for religious imposition! Yay!

Posted by Anonymous : 12/14/2006 09:13:00 PM


I must bring all that up with some of my workmates - including an Orthodox Jew, a Muslim and several Himdus and Buddhists - who have lived rich and full social lives, along with their families, without the state declaring their high holy days and festivals statutory holidays. For a "progessive", I do find it rather amusing how monocultural and shrilly elitist your idea of SOCIETY is.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 12/15/2006 06:56:00 AM

Shrill? Mono-cultural? Huh? Whislt its great to see you doing your "some of my best friends are (insert minority here)" act, All I am doing is wondering why everyone wants to shop all the time... Hmm... you seem to spend a lot of your time personally insulting me, a habit I fear most typical of the chip on the shoulder right wingnut types of your ilk. I have a suggestion to help you with that - go buy a Don Brash blow up doll and a dictaphone. Record your repetitive right wing ravings and stuff it inside the dolls head. Then play it back while you are fucking it. The perfect right wing partner!

Posted by Sanctuary : 12/15/2006 09:21:00 AM


Oh, calm down you silly, silly little person. If you'd care to take off your class war blinkers for a moment, I think you'll notice that many businesses don't open on Sunday for any number of reason, despite the apocalypse opponents of weekend trading were predicting. I actually think greg and I/S made some pretty sensible suggestions, and you'd do well to emulate their tone.

And once you've got a pot of decaf on, could you explain this: Why is it OK to buy a bottle of milk from a service station on a statutory holiday, but it's unspeakably evil for a dairy or superette to choose to do so? Why do I, who happen to be a Christian, get a statutory holiday on Good Friday, but a co-worker has to negotiate her contract so she's able to keep the Sabbath? (She doesn't observe Christmas or Easter, so she'd probably be quite happy working then. Just as Police officers, emergency services and health care workers seem to keep running on stat holidays, and mostly fill their rosters with volunteers.)

Sorry, but I think you're the one making a mountain out of a molehill.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 12/15/2006 10:52:00 AM

"rich and full social lives" -
I take that to mean that they have better things to do than haunt the blogosphere posting comments, the lucky devils. As we're spilling our guts here re. our religious affiliations, I never did get over my adolescent discovery that I wasn't the antichrist. That's my excuse.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/15/2006 11:06:00 AM

I see no reason why shop workers in Auckland should get protection that shop workers in Roturua (or non-shop workers everywhere) don't. Air New Zealand are working Christmas Day, as are various helpdesks and data centres.

I agree with Greg - in fact I think that all statutory holidays should be made optional, and replaced with 10 (?) extra days compulsory paid leave - with a requirement that everyone is entitled to their choice of leave given reasonable notice.

So employers wanting to open on a traditional holiday would just need to negotiate a suitable premium (or employ temps).

While we're at it, the widespread practice of NZ companies imposing compulsory leave days (usually over Christmas) should also be restricted - it doesn't happen in most other countries.

Posted by Rich : 12/20/2006 01:36:00 PM