Monday, April 09, 2007

New Zealand's Strange Politics

I haven't looked much into the "why" of this, but it appears that it is illegal to operate a business in New Zealand during Easter Sunday. Has it always been this way?
Labour Department inspectors are deciding whether to prosecute 22 out of two dozen businesses they visited to check compliance with Easter Sunday trading laws.

Despite finding so many businesses apparently breaching the law, the department says it's generally pleased at the way shop owners complied.

But ONE News found plenty of examples of businesses apparently flouting the law.

On Auckland's North Shore, the big brand furniture and electronics barns were all shut up and the streets deserted when they are normally a-bustle with spenders on a Sunday.

But there were plenty of mavericks.

American-owned Borders book shops opened, its management refusing to comment.

Australian-owned hardware chain Bunnings were doing business as well and staff there also wouldn't talk about the decision to open.

Bunnings has pleaded guilty to charges in the past and paid up the $1,000 fine for each shop.

Like Bunnings, a Mitre 10 store incorporates a garden centre taking up about one-tenth of the floor-space. Staff said the garden centre is exempt, so the rest of the store was open legally too.

The major supermarkets stayed closed but a raft of Auckland's Asian outlets like the Silver Bell and nearby Taiping supermarket were doing brisk business.

The manageress of the Silver Bell market professed profound ignorance of the law. She said as far as she was aware they weren't breaking it and her boss had told her to open on Sunday, so she did.

The union for retail workers says stores should close to give their employees a rare break.

"At the same time, there's a lot of economic pressure on the workers to work today because many retail workers get paid less than $12 an hour. So when it comes to between money and spending time with your family, it's hard for them to make that choice, " says Ingrid Beckers, National Distribution Union organiser.

As for the shoppers, they said they want to just - shop.

"The law's an ass in this case, isn't it. [If] they want to be open, let them be open," says one shopper, a sentiment echoed by others.

"I needed that paint and I had to go and buy it today rather than wait," says another."

The Labour Department sent inspectors out on Sunday and prosecutions are likely to result.