Sunday, April 08, 2007

The obvious solution

It's Easter, and so we're seeing the annual whine from retailers outraged that they are legally required to close for the day. And they have a point - the law is a mess, it has numerous loopholes and exceptions you can drive a bus through, and public opinion seems to have moved on from the days when Easter was considered sacred. This is reflected in the fact that there are not one, but two bills to repeal the restriction currently before Parliament - one of them from a Labour MP. Both bills passed their first readings by wide margins, and I expect one or other of them will probably become law (likely with amendments incorporating the desirable features of the other bill - assuming they are ruled in order).

But while public opinion seems to have shifted on whether shops should be forced to close at Easter, it is still right behind Easter remaining a holiday. Unfortunately, this is an area neither bill addresses - while trading restrictions would be relaxed, Easter Sunday would be treated just like any other day, with the result that retail workers would effectively be robbed of time off they presently enjoy (Easter Friday OTOH is currently listed in the Holidays Act 2003). Which suggests the obvious solution: make Easter Sunday a public holiday. This has been done for all other holidays, even those like Good Friday and Christmas Day when shops are forbidden to open; the reason it hasn't been done seems to be a legacy of the time when nothing opened on Sundays anyway.

Unfortunately due to Standing Orders it may not be possible to amend the bills to make a consequential amendment to the Holidays Act, it being outside the scope of either bill (everything is possible with leave, of course, but I can't see the right wing parties, who have segments opposed to the very idea of paid public holidays, agreeing to it). Instead, the government would have to bring a Holidays Amendment Bill to fix the problem - and probably by next Easter. On the plus side, it would at least give them something to fill up the Order Paper, and delay the embarrassment of running out of government business a little longer...

Update: And Snap! from Span, though she's in favour of keepin gthe restrictions, rather than merely agnostic.


That's what we need, more public holidays based on bizarre religious festivals.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/08/2007 03:51:00 PM

If it helps, think of it as a holiday based on chocolate instead. That's what I celebrate every Easter (hmmm... actually, maybe I'll try my hand at chocalatl this year...)

The TVNZ website is running a poll at the moment on "What is Easter about for you?", and (with the usual caveats about web polls) those who consider it to be about religion are well in the minority. It's been thoroughly secularised (like xmas), people are used to the holiday already, and this would simply be confirming it and adapting it to modern society.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/08/2007 04:56:00 PM

Personally, I'd be more in favour of dropping the Easter and Christmas public holidays altogether, and just assigning everybody five days they could register the formulas for with their employer and have off. So if you wanted to register "Friday preceding the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox" (i.e., Good Friday), you could still do that, but you could equally have "first Tuesday in November" (Melbourne Cup day).

It seems like a much fairer and more secular way of dealing with things, and without trampling on existing workers' rights.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/08/2007 05:36:00 PM

My word that is a startling snap!

The problem with just giving people five days to assign as they see fit is that people actually don't have a lot of freedom now about the days off they can choose even with their annual leave. I've certainly worked in several jobs where leave was not allowed in periods sometimes several months long, and of course the boss could turn your leave down at other times of the year too.

With public holidays you have guaranteed days off that are also at the same time as others in your whanau or group of friends have them. They're regular, you know when they are, and their not at the whim of your boss. That's a big part of the point.

Posted by Span : 4/08/2007 05:53:00 PM

I'd also note anon2 that your FIVE days is a lot less than the current ELEVEN days that those working trad hours get (depending on when Anzac and Waitangi fall of course)...

Posted by Span : 4/08/2007 05:55:00 PM

I was both anon1 & 2.

Span: There are only four public holidays for Christmas and Easter, and one day (Easter Sunday) when shops have to close but which is not a public holiday. At no point did I even mention Anzac Day, Waitangi Day, Labour Day, or any of the others, to which I have no objection at all. They should remain exactly as they are.

The point of the scheme I proposed was that those five days, the ones you registered the formulas for, would be guaranteed in exactly the same way as the current public holidays. There would be no employer discretion involved (otherwise there wouldn't be a formula, would there, there'd just be leave requests).

If you want to have your days at the same time as your family or friends, you could just pick the same ones. Easy. And you could have them at the time you actually wanted them instead of at the time ordained by the Bishop of Alexandria.

They would be regular, you would know when they were, and they wouldn't be at the whim of your boss. I don't think you actually read what I wrote.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/08/2007 07:00:00 PM

Anon, like most - especially New Zealand - right whingers your scheme either ignores or trivialises the importance of shared community experiences.

The whole point of public holidays is the PUBLIC aspect of the holiday. It allows all of us the opportunity to participate in organised group activities which everyone can attend.

I find it deeply ironic that right whingers, the first to scream long and loud about crime stats and the destruction of family values, are also the ones whose policies are the consistantly destructive to any sense of community or family.

Posted by Sanctuary : 4/09/2007 11:50:00 AM

"It allows all of us the opportunity to participate in organised group activities which everyone can attend"

Not if it involves selling beer it doesn't.

What you suggest could equally be achieved by making it compulsory for employers to grant leave requests made a reasonable time (e.g 3 months) in advance. That way, those who want to attend community easter egg hunts or whatever could, while those would rather go to work also can. And those whose preferred leisure activity involves helping others by helping them earn money also can.

Anyway, why are government shopping inspectors allowed to work Easter? Surely they have the right to go and dance around maypoles or whatever?

It's a simple matter of choice - and as an anti-authoritarian (and anti-communitarian, which amounts to the same thing from a different angle) left-winger it's a no brainer to me.

BTW, what happens if Anzac day falls on a Sunday? Or indeed on Easter Sunday as it will in 2038.

Posted by Rich : 4/09/2007 01:50:00 PM

Sanctuary: I voted for the Greens, just to set aside your ad hominem for the moment. Honestly, it's really unnecessary, and it detracts from your argument.

I simply don't think that public holidays should be based around religious festivals. It's a fairly simple and fundamental liberal concept.

The system I proposed would remove that issue, and allow members of other religions to have their own holidays treated in the same way as our Christian minority is today.

If you are somebody who wants to have Easter off and to participate in organised group activities that everybody can attend, that's fine, you can choose your days appropriately - I would probably have it set up such that everybody would get the formulas corresponding to the current public holidays by default.

On the other hand, if you belong to a different religion, or none, you're able to have your own festivals set aside, and not have to rely on the whim of your employer as to whether you're granted those days off. This is both a solid left-wing and liberal concept.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/09/2007 02:17:00 PM

Heres an outrageous idea. Change the law so retailers cant open on ANY public holiday. Why do we need so many shopping days? Many countries don't even have sunday trading, yet here in NZ we are at the other extreme with 24/7, 361.5 day trading. Retail workers have families too and the world wont end if the local supermarket isnt open.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/12/2007 04:08:00 PM

oh by the way, there are 3.5 days when shops arent supposed to open currently...Xmas, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the morning of Anzac Day. I'd be all for the whole of Anzac Day and Waitangi day to be added to that. The idea of giving employees thier own choice of days off will work about as well as the current circumstances of employees not having to work public holidays. They wont end up with either, the pressure put on employees to work, unlawful or not, is huge, if a retail outlet opens, its competition HAS to open and someone HAS to work so giving retailers or employees choice in the matter is a double edged sword. I strongly believe a major reason families are no longer the strong factor in peoples lives in NZ is because many parents no longer have days they can spend with thier family.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/12/2007 04:25:00 PM