Every Xmas or long weekend since 2003, when Labour reintroduced minimum pay of time and a half for working on a public holiday the same old stories are wheeled out as news.
Today TVNZ is running the headline “Holiday law change leaves workers with less money”.
The story is based on the views of right-wing Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer who says that more businesses are opting to keep their doors closed over Christmas and their staff home, and therefore “the legislation is actually forcing holidays on staff and cutting their pay.”
No it’s not. What’s happening is the workers are getting a paid public holiday off like many other New Zealanders. They’re not losing any pay at all. They may be missing out on a bit of half time extra pay, but for most restaurant and retail workers who are on near to minimum wage, the amount would be relatively small. Many people would rather spend the public holidays with their friends and families, as has been confirmed time and again when some bright politician has tried to liberate shop trading laws for Easter Sunday.
Brewer may be right that some restaurants are keeping their doors closed over the holiday period. That’s fine and it’s up to them if they want to take the risk of losing patronage to other restaurants. Many that do open are charging a surcharge, which continues to upset some people. It used to wind me up too, particularly in places where there was an obviously deliberate anti-Labour campaign with a sign saying “Don’t blame me for the surcharge, blame Helen Clark.”
But I’m surprised to find myself agreeing with Steve McKenzie from the Restaurant Association in his piece in the NZ Herald today on “why surcharges are not newsworthy.“
The Restaurant Association seem to have given up attacking the government – perhaps it’s because “their” government shows no sign of removing the time and a half for working public holidays, even although they’ve messed with other entitlements in the Holidays Act.
Paying extra pay for working a public holiday isn’t newsworthy either, so I wish we could just get over the fact that like most other comparable countries, we decided it was fair to pay people extra who have to work on public holidays.