Catholics say family time is under threat due to trading law

Wellington Archbishop John Dew
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington Archbishop John Dew

The Catholic community are not happy with new laws giving councils the power to decide whether shops can be open on Easter Sunday. 

A new bill passed its first reading on Tuesday night, which would enable local authorities to choose whether or not to allow trading on the religious holiday in a bid to let communities decide in different parts of the country.

Catholic bishops have voiced their disappointment that politicians have progressed with the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill. 

Should councils decide on Easter trading laws?

Should councils decide on Easter trading laws?

Cardinal John Dew on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand said workers were bound to be put under pressure from their employers to work the holiday.

"This is about ensuring that vulnerable workers can count on having time off for things that strengthen community and family life."

He said even though businesses wanted to make more money during the holidays, especially in industries such as tourism, this would only add to the pressure on workers not to take the day off.

The bishops were also "deeply concerned" the issue would be voted on by each party, rather than individal MPs. 

"We are also deeply concerned that a dangerous precedent could be set in turning an issue that has always been a conscience vote, into a government Bill in which MPs are not free to vote according to their conscience," Dew said.

"Conscience votes are an important protection for MPs and for society as a whole."

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MPs had voted 75 to 45 in favour of the bill, moving it to the Commerce Committee for consideration.

Dew said NZ Catholic Bishops would be making a submission to the committee to oppose the bill.

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Currently, laws stipulate most shops must close or restrict what they sell on Easter Sunday, for example bars can only serve food (no alcohol). Businesses can check criteria for holiday trading on the MBIE website.

The bill was put forward by Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse, who reasoned current laws were out of date.

"The historical Easter Sunday shop trading exemptions are out of date and create an unfair advantage for certain businesses and regions that can continue trading while others stay shut," he said.

"We know there is a demand from communities across the country to allow for shop trading on Easter Sunday, particularly from those districts who rely on tourism."

Good Friday, ANZAC Day and Christmas Day were not affected.

Woodhouse said the holiday is still significant for many Kiwis which is why workers will still be able to refuse to work on that day.

However, Retail NZ spokesman Greg Harford feared local authorities's would create confusion when formulating bylaws.  

"As we understand it, the door will be open to make decisions based on different geographical areas within a district," he said.

"In Christchurch, you might have a bylaw that says Riccarton Mall can open but Northlands Mall can't.

"We think that whole process of getting councils to look at this every five years is going to create significant cost and significant complexity for ratepayers, shoppers and retailers."

 

 - Stuff

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