Editorial: Holidays down the drain

19:39, Dec 13 2012

Cathy Odgers, a Hong Kong-based lawyer, blogger and keen observer of New Zealand politics, gave good advice earlier this year on how the Government should handle the Holidays (Full Recognition of Waitangi Day and Anzac Day) Amendment Bill.

The legislation ensures those who work a standard five-day week receive a working day off every year for each of the public holidays listed in the act. The private member's bill adds Waitangi Day and Anzac Day to the list, to be "Monday-ised" when - like Christmas Day and Boxing Day - they fall at weekends.

Some employers inevitably fret about the costs to the economy, but beyond this year, Ms Odgers argued, in the five years to 2017, just two days would require Mondayising. Compared with government spending waste and what have you, a few hundred million dollars over five years was "equivalent to dropping a 10 cent coin in a drain".

Ms Odgers is no union-sympathising Leftie. She was a contender for a place on the ACT party list last year. This newspaper commended her advice to the Government.

Parliament's Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, chaired by Hamilton East MP David Bennett, alas has other ideas. At least, the National majority do. After examining the bill, the committee is recommending it not be passed, although Labour and Green members do not support that recommendation. All agree that if the bill does proceed, it needs some amendments, such as making January 1, 2014, the commencement date.

The report says opinions among employers' groups were mixed. Some focused on the increased cost to employers of two additional days' holiday once every seven years. Others, from the tourism sector, focused on the prospect of increased profits for their sector from extra holidays.

The only quantitative research presented showed 87 per cent of the more than 1000 small or medium-sized business owners surveyed supported or were neutral towards Waitangi Day and Anzac Day being Mondayised.

The committee's reasons (those of the National majority) are far from persuasive. The report says only that "most of us consider that the potential of the bill for negative effects outweighs its positive potential". Weight of their numbers, not argument, won the day.