Criticism for opening on Good Friday

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 13:07 19/04/2014

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Wellington

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The law forces shops to shut their doors for two days over Easter but those rebels that flout the rules are doing their employees a disservice, the retailers' union says.

Every year a handful of retailers risk fines of up to $1000 for each day of trading over the Easter holidays, which give most workers - and shoppers' credit cards - a break.

The Green and Labour parties yesterday joined the chorus calling for businesses to respect Easter trading laws.

Shops open yesterday had already attracted complaints to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which has labour inspectors investigating retailers who break the rules.

For two days over Easter retailers must shut up shop, with some exemptions.

Pharmacies can open without restriction and dairies and service stations are allowed to sell necessities, while food outlets can sell meals. Alcohol sales are restricted to on-licences and can be sold only if the patron is dining. Shops providing services such as renting DVDs can also open and souvenir shops are exempted, along with tourism centres Queenstown and Rotorua.

Exhibitions or shows are also exempted and garden centres are allowed to open on Easter Sunday.

Some got around the law creatively. Wellington bar Puppies was advertising opening at midnight "on the dot" to dodge Good Friday alcohol restrictions for a gig hosted at the venue.

But a handful of retailers nationwide opened their doors anyway yesterday - including a garden centre chain that regularly breaks the rules.

Oderings director Darryn Odering, who has 10 shops nationwide, said his Upper Hutt shop was busier than ever yesterday. "We wouldn't be open if there wasn't a demand for us to be open."

In 2012 his business was fined $13,000, and last year $1300. Odering said the law needed a rethink. "It is archaic, it is outdated."

However, First Union retail secretary Maxine Gay disagreed. Retailers who opened on Good Friday were being "greedy", with little regard for workers' and families' needs, she said.

"Retail workers have among the fewest rights in the country - shops are already allowed to trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the other 361 days of the year. I think they can handle a break 3 1/2 days a year."

She said the union did not oppose retailers opening for events held on public holidays that were likely to attract tourism dollars.

Gay said workers could feel pressured into complying with a retailer's desire to remain open and some union members had faced ostracism when they opted not to work.

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However, Odering said his employees chose to work, earning penal rates and days in lieu.

- The Dominion Post

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