Retail workers dearly value the few close-down days each year they get guaranteed time off to see their families, their union said today.
Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the morning of Anzac Day are the only days each year affected by shop trading restrictions.
“These three and a half shopping-free-days are the only ones when shop workers know that they will not be under any pressure to work,” National Distribution Union General Secretary Robert Reid said.
“Shop trading restrictions are there to ensure a bare minimum of non-trading days that celebrate and encourage family life, community activity and religious observances over narrow commercial interest.”
Most retail workers could be required to work on any of the days their shop was normally open, Robert Reid said.
“Shops can open 361 and 1/2 days a year. They can open on 51 of 52 Sundays of the year. Current trading restrictions are not onerous.
Robert Reid said that although Parliament had rejected 8 bills to open shops at Easter since 1996, there were always MPs trying to keep the issue alive, the most recent being Otago MP Jacqui Dean.
He said that retail workers overwhelmingly opposed an extension of trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
“Constant attempts to bring this issue up is a waste of Parliament’s resources, when time after time these Bills are rejected,” Robert Reid said.
Background: Easter Trading
Retail workers oppose an extension of trading at Easter
• Shops (with only a few exceptions) are open 361 and 1/2 days a year. Retail workers are expected to be available during these days.
• Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the morning of Anzac Day are the only days affected by shop trading restrictions.
• Liberalising shop trading laws has been voted on in Parliament 8 times since 1996. Parliament has voted down every Bill. Recent attempts include Todd McClay (2009), Steve Chadwick (2007) and Jacqui Dean (2007). Jacqui Dean had another members’ bill drawn in August last year, but she has delayed the vote, lacking a majority to get it past first reading.
• Easter is one of the few times that retail workers get to see family and friends and go to reunions, jubilees and other events. Many community events are planned around Easter.
• Commerce should not be put before family time at Easter. We already work much longer hours than workers in other OECD countries and enjoy fewer public holidays, and one fifth of workers are putting in 50 hours or week or more.
Doesn’t the law protect people’s right not to work?
• Despite assurances workers and employers must agree for a worker to be rostered on, our members say this is not a real right in practise. Even experienced retail workers who know their rights find it hard to say no to working on a busy day and don’t want to let the team down.
• Although Good Friday is, Easter Sunday is not a public holiday. Workers will not get any compensation (e.g. time in lieu) for working. Easter Sunday will become an ordinary working day for retail workers.
The retail workforce
• 267,000 New Zealanders work in retail (Dept. of Labour, 2009). More still are employed in related industries like transport and logistics.
• Mostly their work is paid at or only moderately above the minimum wage. Almost all are required to work during weekends (without extra pay), and their hours can be changed at short notice.
• Most workers could be called on to work on any of a shop’s opening days, especially the busiest days - weekends and public holidays.
FOLLOW THIS STORY IN THE MEDIA
Fairfax Media: Workers want Easter off - union
NZPA: Retail workers 'value time off' each Easter
Radio NZ: Ban sought on MPs challenging Easter trading laws
Northern Advocate: Whangarei businesses abide by Good Friday trading laws
TVNZ Online: Garden centre defies Easter trading ban
Southland Times: Wanaka businesses flout Good Friday law
Timaru Herald: Editorial: Debate fires up again
Otago Daily Times: Inspectors visit 33 shops