Easter trading defeated (again)

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, December 10th, 2009 - 10 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags: , ,

A victory for New Zealand’s 270,000 retail workers and their families last night, with Parliament voting 62-59 to reject National MP Todd McClay’s Easter Sunday trading bill.

This debate has never been about observing a religious holiday as the neoliberals try to paint it, it’s about recognising that there should be times during the year when family and friends are able to get together without being forced to work. It’s about beating back the encroachment of capitalism into family life.

Don’t give me this crap about the individual freedom of workers either. It’s not workers demanding this law change, it’s business, and there’s a good reason for that.

Individual workers simply don’t have the bargaining power to demand time off to spend with family if our bosses demand we show up to work. We don’t want the false freedom to be forced to work by our employers, we want the freedom to earn a decent living with time off to spend with our loved ones.

Margaret Dornan, a shop worker at Farmers and the vice-president of the NDU, puts it well:

‘You’ve only got 3 and 1/2 days a year when shops aren’t open. Speaking to other retail workers yesterday about this issue, they all asked when they were supposed to get some time off with their family, if shops opened over Easter.’

I also don’t buy the argument that because Taupo can open other centres should be allowed to open as well. If anything this just shows the folly of regional exemptions. The world won’t end because tourists can’t go shopping on Easter Sunday. It won’t stop them coming to New Zealand and it won’t send businesses to the wall. Believe it or not, the countries these tourists come here from have days when the shops close down, and they have a lot more of those days than we do.

In fact New Zealand has some of the most liberalised shop opening hours in the world. We can shop 361 and half days a year, 24 hours a day including 51 out of 52 Sundays and every public holiday except Good Friday, Christmas Day and until midday on Anzac Day.

The idea that these last few bastions of family time should be given over to the demands of commerce is just capitalism gone mad. Commerce exists to serve us, not the other way around. You’d think that after seven failed attempts to roll back Easter since 1996 they would have learned their lesson. Let’s hope this time’s the last.

[Labour’s Grant Robertson has the voting breakdown here. The bill was supported by most National MPs, all ACT MPs, Peter Dunne, one Labour MP (Steve Chadwick) and three Maori Party MPs (Turia, Sharples and Flavell – shame). The bill was opposed by all Labour MPs bar Chadwick, all Green MPs, Jim Anderton, eight National MPs and the Maori Party’s Rahui Katene. Hone didn’t vote as he’s still banished from Parliament.]

10 comments on “Easter trading defeated (again)”

  1. toad 1

    How about making Easter Sunday a public holiday so that workers who already are required to work it at least get a day in lieu to spend with their families.

  2. randal 2

    felt sorry for mclay having to put this lead balloon up.
    like it or not we are a christian country and that means we observe the ancient rituals of our people to propitiate our gods.
    being a pagan at heart but converted to christianity in another life I still need to look into the abyss of meaningless and justify my futile existence.

  3. Bored 3

    “I also don’t buy the argument that because Taupo can open other centres should be allowed to open as well.”

    Relax, geologically speaking this is a self correcting thing (every two thousand years or so).

  4. Lanthanide 4

    Someone posted in the Red Alert comments that lower-paid workers may actually want to work on the Easter days, so as to earn extra money.

    I can see that sentiment, so I think a nice middle-ground could be struck – special status for Easter Friday/Sunday as being paid at 3x wages, + 1 day in lieu for those who work. Presently public holidays are just 1.5x wages + 1 day in lieu. This would mean then even if your boss did force you to work, at least you’d get some real benefit from it. It also means that the bosses can really reflect on what opening on these days really costs, and whether they think they can turn a profit while doing so.

  5. dave 5

    Toad, couldn’t agree more. Now, can you organise a members bill to that effect, I’;m too busy at the moment.

  6. toad 6

    Posted by Nat MP Katrina Shanks on The Blog That Shall Not Be Named:

    I was one of the few National MPs who voted against the bill.

    I did so for the following reasons. Family time is a precious commodity these days and continual pressure on retailers to open longer hours, has IMO already seriously eroded the time working parents can spend with their children.

    As a mother of three young children myself and an MP, I am acutely aware of the stresses and strains that long working hours can have on family life.

    There are currently only three and a half days when New Zealanders are unable to shop, Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Anzac Day morning. These days reflect the special character of our society. Ensuring that they remain “commerce free’ is I believe an important step in helping to strengthen family relationships.

    I have had a number of emails to my office this morning thanking me for my “independence over this issue’ and for taking a “good sense and family-minded stance’

    By the way I note that Ohariu’s Peter Dunne voted for Easter Sunday trading while Labour’s Charles Chauvel, also based in Ohariu voted for against it.

    Guess that’s her chances of ever becoming a Minister down the gurgler – insufficient commitment to unrestrained capitalism.

    [lprent: Why can’t you name it? Kiwiblog has been a well-discussed issue here for a long time. He may spend a lot of time dog-whistling, being naive (especially when it is science or maths), and is frequently just boring (bloody holiday pix). But at least he doesn’t just make crap up and try and pass it off as fact. ]

  7. Camden Whelk 7

    So a vote against Easter Trading is a vote for Family Values.

    • prism 7.1

      Don’t knock families – without them where would we be? To make one takes a short time, to grow one takes a life time (and time is the important word here).

  8. randal 8

    it is a vote for our national religion which is christianity.
    not the wonky sort but the chrisitianity that has brought us here after 2,000 years and is far too precious to be given away to some crummy little retailers in a tourist trap because they have no spiritual values of their own.

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