Editorial: Strong case to 'Mondayise' holidays

Last updated 09:48 18/03/2013

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OPINION: If Waitangi Day or Anzac Day had fallen on the weekend just gone, Kiwis would be waking this morning feeling they had been cheated out of an important public holiday.

And rightly so.

It makes no sense for New Zealand to "Mondayise" Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the two New Year holidays when they occur on a Saturday or Sunday but not the days on which we celebrate the founding of our nation and remember those who have fought, died and been wounded in its service.

It makes even less sense when New Zealand sets aside the first Monday in June to celebrate the birthday of a woman who lives on the other side of the world, who has not been here for more than a decade despite being our head of state, and who was actually born on April 21.

Fortunately, Parliament is now one step away from passing a bill from Labour MP David Clark that would end this unfathomable anomaly by Mondayising Anzac Day and Waitangi Day.

At the moment, two of these holidays are lost to workers every seven years when they fall on a Saturday or Sunday.

In 2010 and 2011 both were lost, in the latter case because of the rare circumstance of Anzac Day falling on Easter Monday - itself, ironically, a Mondayised day because Easter Day falls on a Sunday.

Many arguments have been made for the bill to be voted down.

Most are illogical or exaggerated.

The only truly valid one is the cost for employers having to pay time-and-a- half and give a day in lieu to employees who work on a relevant Monday.

However, it is unlikely to be too onerous.

The former Labour Department calculated that the cost was as much as $200 million for each day but that is widely regarded as an overestimate.

It also ignores the fact the cost can be spread over time. Looked at that way, the additional cost of an extra two holidays every seven years is about 0.10 per cent of the wage bill.

Other concerns about Mr Clark's bill do not bear scrutiny.

They include the ludicrous claim that there would be confusion about the dates on which people who worked both on a weekend day when either of the two holidays actually fell and the following Monday would be paid time-and-a-half.

That suggestion is laughable.

If employers can work it out for Christmas and New Year, there is no reason they cannot get their heads around it for Waitangi and Anzac days.

There have also been claims that the sanctity of the two national days would be undermined if they were Mondayised. There is no reason to believe that would be so.

Mondayising Christmas has not undermined its sanctity for Christians.

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Just as Christmas Day is observed on December 25 regardless of which day of the week it falls on, so too would Waitangi Day continue to be observed on February 6 and Anzac Day on April 25.

Crowds will continue to gather at the Treaty grounds and cenotaphs and memorials around the country when the days fall on a Saturday or a Sunday, just as they already do now.

- The Dominion Post

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