Changes to allow shop trading in the Timaru district on Easter Sunday have prompted a mixed response from those in the business community.
First Union organiser Shirley Walthew, who spoke on behalf of union members in Dunedin, Oamaru and South Canterbury, said the changes would affect retail workers.
While the policy, adopted by the Timaru District Council but enforced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, allowed workers to turn down requests to work on Easter Sunday, it was not as straightforward in reality, Ms Walthew said.
With three and a-half days a year when most businesses were required to be closed – Christmas Day, Good Friday, Anzac Day until 1pm and Easter Sunday – the change to allow shops to open on Easter Sunday would affect retail workers, she said.
“That bites into their guaranteed time off.”
Ms Walthew said while workers who worked that day would be guaranteed a day in lieu, it would be at the discretion of the employer and often timed when a worker could not spend time with family.
During the submission process several church representatives had opposed the change on religious grounds.
South Canterbury Anglican archdeacon Rev Peter Carrell said the Easter weekend holidays “reflect and express the Christian heritage of New Zealand”.
Dr Carrell’s submission was on behalf of the Canterbury Anglican Synod which had voted to oppose the change to the policy, due to Easter Sunday being a “sacred day” for Christian New Zealanders as well as a designated holiday for shop workers.
A submission from the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce said the chamber supported the change, especially as the region was enjoying increased tourist numbers, and it also gave individual businesses the chance to decide their own “economic viability” over the Easter break.
Chamber chief executive Wendy Smith said in the submission that the policy change would especially positively affect businesses in Geraldine, as it would give visitors more options over Easter Weekend.
She also believed the policy should be implemented nationwide to reduce confusion over opening hours in districts across the country.