Views galore on Easter Trading

Where do I start. How about with the CTU:

“The current Easter Sunday trading restrictions ensure that retail workers have at least some ability to participate in the huge range of family, community and religious activities that take place around New Zealand over Easter,” said CTU secretary Carol Beaumont.

I find it interesting that given a choice between being pro-worker or anti-employer they go for anti-employer.

I would expect unions to strongly advocate for penal rates on public holidays, and to advocate that no employee should be forced to work on a public holiday, but why do unions campaign to make their own members poorer by removing the right for low paid workers to earn extra money by working? They claim they support higher wages for workers, yet support a law which prevents them from earning higher wages.

If a couple both on $15 an hour had the ability to volunteer to work on Good Friday, and they were not normally rostered on those days, then they could earn the equivalent of $37.50 a hour which for one day’s work would be $600 of extra earnings for their family.

They could then take the family away on holiday the following weekend when things are less crowded, because they were able to earn that extra $600.

The Press attacks the Government for not changing the status quo:

What this shows is that the Government is gun-shy about taking leadership in election year over an issue which is highly sensitive for many Christians and trade unions.

Religious opponents of allowing general trading on Easter Sunday believe that commercialism would somehow undermine the spiritual meaning of Easter, while trade unions argue that trading-hour liberalisation would expose employees to the risk of exploitation. Yet neither of these arguments is convincing.

Better by far that the Government had acted to at least ensure that the trading regime was consistent and logical, rather than allow the law to continue to make an ass of itself during future Easter weekends.

The Dominion Post is more pointed:

Going to a brothel yesterday was fine by the Government. Going to a garden centre wasn’t, The Dominion Post writes.

That – presumably – is not because the Government believes a dalliance with a prostitute is a more appropriate way to mark Good Friday than sowing some sweetpeas, but because New Zealand’s Easter shopping laws remain a hotch-potch of anomalies and absurdities.

Queenstown and Taupo shop owners could happily open their doors without fear of fines because they are deemed to be tourist areas. Their near neighbours in Wanaka and Rotorua could not. Dairies and service stations were allowed to open. Garden centres were not – but many did anyway.

It is small wonder that the laws and the fines that go along with breaking them are regarded as a final remnant of the days New Zealand was run, as former prime minister David Lange put it, like a Gdansk shipyard.

The best reform suggestion comes from Jim Donovan:

The usual arguments are trotted out by the pro-restriction lobby: it’s one day families can all rely on to get together, it’s a mark of respect to our religious and cultural heritage, it’s one day that sporting and cultural festival organisers can rely on  … That’s fine for those people who want to put aside those particular days for the things they want to do; but why … should everyone else be captive to those special interest groups’ demands, especially when the vast majority actually take no part in the special events on those holidays? The pro-restriction lobby then trots out pieties against crass commercialism and abuse of workers’ rights.

Jim sums up the usual arguments from the statists who want to force their views on everyone else. He then makes a proposal:

Get rid of public holidays altogether, and in return increase annual leave entitlements by the same number of days. Say you currently get 20 days annual leave and 10 public holidays; instead you’d get 30 days annual leave, to take whenever you like.

To cater for the people who want to fix certain dates for religious or cultural activities, you could allow them to nominate up to, say, 5 days a year where they can definitely take time off (i.e. the employer has no choice). To avoid gaming, once nominated those days MUST be taken, unless the employer and employee otherwise both agree. Of course you’d have to allow for essential services, but I’d keep it a very short list.

I like it.  Those who want to have Easter together can do so.  In fact under the current law they can’t as they could be forced to work Easter Saturday and/or Easter Monday. Jim’s proposal would give certainty to families who want some guaranteed time together, but allow freedom to choose for everyone else.

The economy, businesses and consumers would effectively gain several days trading a year. And here’s the greatest advantage – ordinary workers would be free to take more days off when they and their employer agree, not when someone else outside the relationship says they should. For example, families could organise get-togethers when it suited them – and avoid the peak fares and traffic jams of the most popular days.

Indeed. Why let a stupid Gregorian calendar formula dictate when you must take a day off.

I’d bet that most people and businesses would prefer the latter. And think of the administrative simplicity. Unfortunately, too many vested interests love the petty power, anti-competitiveness and big-noting associated with public holidays.

It would be great for religious diversity also.  Jews and Muslims could nominate as of right five of their religious holidays as days they get to take off. As could Buddhists, Hindus. And Americans here could take the 4th of July off.  At present no employee gets to decide as of right a single day they take off. This proposal would give them an inalienable right to take five days off that they nominate and choose, plus another 25 days by mutual consent.

Jim Donovan for Minister of Labour I say.

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