Easter trading law change welcomed by many

  • 25/08/2015

By Sarah Robson

The Government's mooted changes to Easter trading laws have won the backing of local councils and the tourism industry.

But unions are worried about whether workers really will be able to refuse to work on Easter Sunday without giving a reason.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse unveiled the changes, which will give councils the power to decide whether or not shops can open, yesterday.

He says the current rules are complex and relatively arbitrary.

"The law allows certain shops selling specific items to remain open, while others must close their doors," Mr Woodhouse said.

"It also includes several historical exemptions which allow shops in areas such as Taupo to open on Easter Sunday, while those in Rotorua cannot."

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule says mayors in tourism centres have been asking for the power to allow trading on Easter Sunday for many years.

"It is pleasing that the Government has recognised that local government has a unique role in its ability to develop policies and regulations that suit local circumstances," he said.

The Tourism Industry Association says the changes will benefit the tourism industry and local economies.

"International and domestic travellers expect shops to be open during significant holiday periods and it does not reflect well on the visitor experience if shops are closed," chief executive Chris Roberts said.

"We want to offer visitors every opportunity to open their wallets."

As part of the proposed law changes, workers will be given the right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday, without needing to provide a reason.

But unions say it might not be that easy.

"Power relations in a workplace make it impossible for a worker to refuse to work Easter Sunday," First Union retail and finance secretary Maxine Gay said.

CTU secretary Sam Huggard said Easter is one of the few guaranteed times retail workers can be certain they'll have time off.

"Some things are more important than shopping," he said.

The Government hopes to introduce a bill to parliament in the next few weeks, with changes coming into effect in 2017.