by NZ CATHOLIC staff
New Zealand Catholic bishops have warned that the rights of workers and their families are under threat as the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill is sent to select committee.
Members of Parliament voted 75 to 45 at the bill’s first reading on November 3 in moving the bill to the Commerce Select Committee for consideration.
“We are disappointed that the vote in favour of sending the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill to Select Committee means the rights of vulnerable workers and their families to time off at Easter is under threat,” said Cardinal John Dew on behalf of the Catholic bishops of New Zealand.
“This is about ensuring that vulnerable workers can count on having time off for things that strengthen community and family life,” Cardinal Dew said.
“We are also deeply concerned that a dangerous precedent could be set in turning an issue that has always been a conscience vote, into a government Bill in which MPs are not free to vote according to their conscience.
Conscience votes are an important protection for MPs and for society as a whole,” he said. During the first reading debate, two Labour MPs referred to their Catholic upbringing.
Sue Moroney said the bill is “one of those rare moments where my Catholic upbringing and my trade union principles absolutely intersect and guide my conscience”.
She explained that her Catholic upbringing and trade union principles “tell me is that the economy is here to work for people . . . not the other way round”.
Damian O’Connor said he had been brought up as a Catholic and was taught Christian values that underpin many New Zealand laws. He said Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Sunday have been respected by the law and the community as days “that should be held for family”.
He accused the Government of failing to uphold “the family values that were and have been preserved on those three days” and for putting “values after value”.
The bill, put forward by the Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse, will enable territorial authorities to create bylaws that will allow shops in their districts, or parts of their districts, to open for trade on Easter Sunday.
The bill will also allow shop employees to refuse to work on Easter Sunday. Trading restrictions on Good Friday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day would remain. Submissions on the bill close on January 21, 2016.

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