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Caritas invitation highlights opposition to trading bill

Caritas invitation highlights opposition to Easter Sunday trading bill

An invitation to meet with Caritas on Easter Sunday and discuss the social justice agency's opposition to the Shop Hours Amendment Bill has been extended to members of the Commerce Select Committee.

"You need to understand what it feels like to be working when others are enjoying time off. This is our challenge to you today, and we look forward to a response," Director of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Julianne Hickey said to committee members.

Made this morning during an oral submission focussing on the impact on families and communities of extending Easter trading, Caritas' invitation highlights a primary concern to protect vulnerable retail workers.

"Low-paid workers, such as cleaners, security workers and people working in retail, have long opposed and continue to oppose the extension of trading hours," says Ms Hickey.

"There are insufficient protections in the Bill to ensure that workers will be able to refuse work. And in the context of zero-hours and other casual employment relationships, the most vulnerable workers are often simply not in a position to refuse any work offered them."

The eroding effect on families and communities of removing further Sunday trading restrictions is also an important concern for Caritas, and an aspect that has seen the Catholic organisation consistently oppose measures to extend Easter trading for the past 26 years.

"Families and communities need time together to be able to flourish. We need to strengthen these bonds and connections, which are achieved through a wide range of activities; including many that take place at Easter, when shops are mostly closed and most workers have leave," Ms Hickey says.

Despite being framed as a new approach to the issue, Ms Hickey points out that previous incarnations of the bill also proposed to devolve decision making about Easter trading to local councils. The difference on this occasion is that the measure has been introduced as a government bill, and Caritas is concerned that Members of Parliament will be "whipped into voting for it".

ENDS

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