Shop Trading Hours Bill no longer a matter of conscience for MPs

In a recent blog, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand pointed out that some of the MPs speaking in favour of the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill  referred  to the importance of freedom of choice.  “However, they have given away their own freedom of choice in relation to this significant measure.  Families, communities and low-paid retail workers will all be the poorer for their decision to suppress their consciences.”

The blog tells how in December 2009, a current National Member of Parliament sent a handwritten Christmas card to Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, which said: “Thank you for your letter…urging me to vote against the Easter Trading Bill, which was narrowly defeated in Parliament last night. I share your concerns on this issue and did indeed cast my vote against the measure.”

That same member of parliament, along with several other National MPs with long records of voting against extending Easter trading hours, were not present in Parliament last month when the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill was voted on. However, their votes were recorded as proxy votes for the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill  because National members agreed to vote along party lines.

In 1997, when Labour proposed to vote on party lines on the Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal (Easter) Amendment Bill, National strongly objected in the Parliamentary debate, saying “These sorts of issues should be conscience issues.  I am disappointed that the Labour party should exercise the party whip on an issue like this.”

The  Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill passed its second reading. The vote was 62 in favour 59 against.<

The Government has proposed Changes to the Bill that amends the Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal Act 1990. These changes include:

  • Local authorities will have the ability to create local policies (rather than bylaws) to allow shop trading in defined areas on Easter Sunday.
  • The changes also clarify that the ability to refuse to work on Easter Sunday is extended to all shop employees. The ‘right to refuse’ provision allows employers and employees to negotiate freely, and means that all shop employees will have the ability to refuse to work on Easter Sunday without any repercussions for their employment relationship.

‘New Zealanders are only guaranteed three and a half days off each year. We should protect that, not reduce it,’ said FIRST Union Retail and Finance Secretary Maxine Gay.

‘Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse is saying working people can refuse to work on Easter Sunday, but we know from bitter experience that there are consequences to saying no.”

“People might find their hours reduced or those on a 90 day trial period might find themselves out of the job on day 89.’”

The Bill now goes into Committee stages.


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