By Gerald Ford
I write what may be a minority opinion this week, as three Wairarapa district councils prepare to open the door to Easter Sunday trading.
One submission from a businessman in particular stands out to me: “Wairarapa is a tourism region with many domestic and international visitors who are amused that we shut down at such a busy time.”
As a nation, I suggest we are overly conscious of what visitors might think of us, and under-conscious of the values for which we stand.
Through a little online research recently I learned of the terrible conditions of the English farm labourer in the 1850s to 1870s that led so many of them to emigrate to New Zealand where an 8-hour day rather than a 14-hour day was standard.
Immigrants to New Zealand took advantage of a new land with new rules and enjoyed a new equality where “Jack was as good as master” as one touring Englishman put it.
Now poor Jack is ignored along with commonsense and compassion, as we sacrifice the free time of the lowly worker for our shopping convenience, to make a dollar and to satisfy the alleged opinion of outsiders.
Jack is not as good as we his customer masters but is there to serve us, which is fine provided we’re not Jack.
In an effort to be fair to workers and in the fine tradition of impractical “have your cake and eat it too” legislation, Parliament has powerfully decreed that employees may decline to work on Easter Sunday without having to give a reason and without repercussions for their employment relationship.
The answer to the whingeing tourist is this:
“You are in New Zealand (or, because the Government in a cowardly manner has passed the issue to the regions, you’re in Wairarapa).
“In this place workers have a few guaranteed days off a year. This is one of them, Easter Sunday. You might have heard of it? You can shop tomorrow.”
Many of our businesses are owner operated but this is not about them.
If they are permitted to open, then any business with employees should be permitted to open, and then the pressure for employees to work will be turned on. Money will find a way.
Times when the world stops are precious and rare.
The only fair thing to do would have been a blanket rule of no trading. Masterton and Carterton district councils, after consultation, have decided otherwise.
Based on the consultation received by South Wairarapa District Council, this week the door may open there, too. I think it is a shame so many of us are prepared to demand some low-paid retail worker sacrifice their long weekend just so we can buy stuff on ours.
What do you think? Letters to [email protected]