Why abandon a rare holiday to commercialism?
The submissions have closed and the Timaru District Council has decided it is desirable that shops and businesses be allowed to trade on Easter Sunday.
The previous government passed this hot potato to local authorities to decide given the divisive nature of the proposal.
As a result, the Timaru council opted to consider submissions from the public before deciding whether to enact a local bylaw allowing trading on Easter Sunday. There was a hearing on Tuesday.
Regular readers of this column will probably be only too well aware of my views on this topic as I have expressed them several times.
So, to reluctantly repeat myself, I find it incredible there are people (mainly businesses, it has to be said) clamouring to further erode the very few public holidays left on which shops are required to remain closed.
In fact, having Easter Sunday fall victim to latter-day shopping mania means we will be left with only Good Friday, Christmas Day and the morning of Anzac Day still unsullied by commercialism - and you can be certain these bastions will then soon come under increasing pressure too.
In fact, sure enough, one of the submitters to the council on the issue argued that ‘‘closing down the country on two days out of four at Easter is madness’’. He added that in Scotland and parts of the English Midlands Good Friday was already ‘‘a normal working day’’.
Sorry, but what is ‘‘madness’’, as the submitter put it, is that we are already left with only three-anda-half days out of 365 when businesses are required to stay closed and workers are guaranteed time off.
And that is the crux of my objection to any further erosion of our public holidays. How long will it be before the few remaining days when employees can be guaranteed time off to spend with their families will fall victim to the obsession with shopping?
Yes, the law does provide for employees to refuse to work on those statutory days if they so wish but we all know that in these days of fragile workers’ rights - zerohours contracts and the 90-day rule spring readily to mind – many people may well feel reluctant to test their employer’s patience by refusing to work.
And it should be noted that using the UK as an example to follow is not, to my mind, a good idea. The United Kingdom has the fewest public holidays in Europe – just eight compared to 14 in Spain and Malta and 15 in Cyprus and Slovakia - and only Mexico worldwide has fewer.
Even the Democratic Republic of Congo, widely regarded as the most impoverished nation on earth, has nine public holidays
Let me make it plain I am not objecting to the extension of trading hours from a religious perspective, although several churches have quite rightly voiced their concern at the proposal. My objection is purely that is totally unnecessary for any further incursions to be made into our limited number of public holidays.
They are, after all, supposed to be holidays and if businesses are allowed to open on those days that it’s far from a holiday for a sizeable segment of the population. Indeed, the clamour for more shopping hours undoubtedly comes from either business owners or those people who will NOT be working when shops are granted additional opening hours.
I don’t buy into the argument that we need to be open for business to cater for tourists to our region. Timaru is not Queenstown and even if we did attract large numbers of visitors to South Canterbury that doesn’t make it incumbent on us to give up our precious public holidays.
Contrary to popular belief overseas tourists do not necessarily expect us to do that. All over the world there are plenty of other nations that close their doors on public holidays and visitors from those countries just have to accept that.
And, finally, for those who are so addicted to shopping that they cannot kick the habit for just a few days in the year, there is still an outlet for them – just shop online. That way no one has to give up their precious day off.