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Shop trading laws already highly deregulated

Shop trading laws already highly deregulated

The retail workers’ union says few countries have shopping laws as deregulated as New Zealand, and yet more of Parliament’s time will be wasted if a new bill on Easter trading is drawn from the ballot.

Tau Henare has today announced he will submit a member’s bill to allow shop trading on Good Friday.

This is despite 8 bills attempting to liberalise Easter trading being voted down since 1996, and his colleague, Otago MP Jacqui Dean, delaying her recent members’ bill through lack of support to get it past first reading.

“This is a complete time waster,” National Distribution Union General Secretary Robert Reid said.

“Our shopping laws are already among the most deregulated in the world. New Zealanders can shop on 361 and 1/2 days a year. We can shop on 51 of 52 Sundays of the year.”

“Retail workers work unsociable hours in order to meet this demand. Most are required to be available on any of a shop’s opening days, especially the busiest times of weekends and public holidays. Many shops operate late hours, some right through the night.”

“Why would Parliamentarians want to make the situation for the country’s 267,000 strong retail workforce any worse? Even the Retailers Association is not calling for shops to open on Good Friday, as Tau Henare is promoting.

“It seems extraordinary that Parliament would want to dismantle one of our only laws that explicitly promotes the interests of family and community over the marketplace.”

Robert Reid said arguments made by retailer representatives yesterday that shop trading amendments were just about choice, and that retailers wouldn’t be forced to open, were highly dubious.

“Once the competitor down the road opens, so too will their shop open, and then retail workers will be called on to work. Shops in large malls are required to open at all times as part of the mall owners’ lease arrangements.”

Consumer choice arguments fell flat too, he said. “The last time we looked, shopping was not part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Robert Reid said problems with current law could be fixed, and the NDU was not opposed to reviewing the exemptions currently in place for tourist areas.

Background: Easter Trading

Retail workers oppose an extension of trading at Easter
• Shops (with only a few exceptions) are open 361 and 1/2 days a year. Retail workers are expected to be available during these days.
• Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the morning of Anzac Day are the only days affected by shop trading restrictions.
• Liberalising shop trading laws has been voted on in Parliament 8 times since 1996. Parliament has voted down every Bill. Recent attempts include Todd McClay (2009), Steve Chadwick (2007) and Jacqui Dean (2007). Jacqui Dean had another members’ bill drawn in August last year, but she has delayed the vote, lacking a majority to get it past first reading.
• Easter is one of the few times that retail workers get to see family and friends and go to reunions, jubilees and other events. Many community events are planned around Easter.
• Commerce should not be put before family time at Easter. We already work much longer hours than workers in other OECD countries and enjoy fewer public holidays, and one fifth of workers are putting in 50 hours or week or more.

Doesn’t the law protect people’s right not to work?
• Despite assurances workers and employers must agree for a worker to be rostered on, our members say this is not a real right in practise. Even experienced retail workers who know their rights find it hard to say no to working on a busy day and don’t want to let the team down.
• Although Good Friday is, Easter Sunday is not a public holiday. Workers will not get any compensation (e.g. time in lieu) for working. Easter Sunday will become an ordinary working day for retail workers.

The retail workforce
• 267,000 New Zealanders work in retail (Dept. of Labour, 2009). More still are employed in related industries like transport and logistics.
• Mostly their work is paid at or only moderately above the minimum wage. Almost all are required to work during weekends (without extra pay), and their hours can be changed at short notice.
• Most workers could be called on to work on any of a shop’s opening days, especially the busiest days - weekends and public holidays.

© Scoop Media

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