“Liberalisation for some creates shackles for others.”
A statement by the NZ Catholic Bishops' Conference, February 2007
It has been rightly said that “liberalisation for some creates shackles for others”. We believe that if restricted trading on Easter Sunday (and Good Friday) is lifted, workers will not be adequately protected from pressures to work on that day, thereby depriving them of opportunity of spending quality time, not just for worship if they are Christian, but with their families, and in sporting, cultural and leisure activities.
We do not accept that the good faith provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000, or the additional provisions proposed by the Commerce Select Committee are sufficient to protect employees’ right to practise their faith and spend time with their families on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
For Christians, the Easter period is of greatest significance. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are those two days that commemorate the very foundations of the Christian faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The importance of spending adequate quality time together, especially for parents and children, is vital for strengthening family relationships. As Cardinal Thomas Williams pointed out in an earlier statement, “If profit is to take priority over people, the outcome will be a society less human and more stressful for individuals, families and the community at large.”
Much has been written and spoken lately about the disintegration of family life with financial pressure being an important contributing factor.
When parents are forced to work long hours at the expense of time spent with each other and with their children, we see children and young people who are left without the comfort and security of traditional family interraction. We don’t need to spell out the dire consequences that often result when young people look elsewhere for their support and for ways to spend their time.
New Zealanders work some of the longest hours in the OECD countries. We believe the government should do more to promote a work/life balance. Extended shopping hours will not achieve it, but the few days when shop trading is restricted provide some opportunity to strengthen and develop this balance.
We do not support the government delegating authority for fundamental decisions about working hours to local authorities. We believe this will result in widespread Easter trading by default, as regions and employers find themselves compelled to introduce trading in the face of competition and other pressures. This will contribute to a situation where workers are not able to take leave.
We ask our Members of Parliament to view the social rather than commercial aspects of this proposed legislation, and to exercise their vote in the interests of the workers and families of New Zealand.