Yet another attempt to extend shop trading hours was introduced in the House today. Todd McLay put forward the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 Repeal (Easter Sunday Local Choice) Amendment Bill. The Bill sought to provide for Council by- laws allowing trading on Easter Sunday in their area. And of course it was only for areas where people want shops to open (which people?) and of course it was a matter of choice for all – workers, shop owners and local areas. Yeah right!
We already have one of the most liberal shop trading regimes in the world. We can shop 361 and half days a year. Since 1990 that means we can shop 24 hours a day including on 51 out of 52 Sundays and every public holiday except Good Friday, Christmas Day and the morning of Anzac Day. But that is not enough! Tourists going to Rotorua on Easter weekend are of course wanting to shop on Easter Sunday and their whole experience of the wonderful cultural and natural environment are spoiled currently by being unable to do so.
Easter is a very significant time for New Zealanders. It has religious significance, family significance and community significance. Think here of all the reunions and tournaments that take place at Easter. Retail workers are not an insignificant group of workers – 270,000 people who also want to share in the events that take place over Easter. Supposedly they would have a choice whether they will work on Easter Sunday under this legislation because it says workers cannot be required to work on Easter Sunday. Well as Lynne Pillay said and as many retail workers know it is not an equal relationship between retail workers and their employers. There are many reasons why workers will feel pressured to work if their shop is open. Most shops have very tight staffing levels, often work is highly casualised with people seeking to get more permanent hours, there are many young workers (65% of workers under 18 years of age work in retail) who often don’t know their rights or are not particularly confident in asserting their rights. Those who don’t agree know they will be told they aren’t team players and of course many workers feel pressured to work because they know if they don’t that they are putting pressure on their workmates. Despite what many people think Easter Sunday is not a public holiday so there is not the same reward for working on Easter Sunday.
And 5 minutes ago it was voted down 59 for and 62 against. A victory!