Mondayising bill passes its final hurdle

By Kate Shuttleworth

The bill to move the day off for Waitangi Day and Anzac Day to Monday when it falls on a weekend has passed its third reading. File photo / Thinkstock
The bill to move the day off for Waitangi Day and Anzac Day to Monday when it falls on a weekend has passed its third reading. File photo / Thinkstock

New Zealanders will get Monday off when Waitangi and Anzac days next fall on a weekend.

The Labour Party bill to move the day off for Waitangi Day and Anzac Day to Monday when it falls on a weekend has passed its third reading tonight by 61 votes to 60.

Labour Party Deputy leader Grant Robertson said it was a triumph for labour.

"I'm delighted that workers will get time to spend with their families and commemorate these special days, seven years out of seven," Mr Robertson said.

It's the first bill the [Labour] party has successfully moved through Parliament and passed since they became Opposition in 2008.

The bill was supported by the Greens, New Zealand First, the Maori Party, United Future, the Mana Party and Brendan Horan.

It was sponsored by Labour's Dunedin North MP, Dr David Clark, who said New Zealand should follow Australia's lead and compensate workers when a public holiday fell on a weekend, like Christmas Day.

The idea for the bill came in 2010 when Anzac and Waitangi days both fell on the weekend - that year New Zealanders got only nine out of the 11 public holidays allowed under the Holidays Act.

Grant Robertson spoke during tonight's third reading of the bill. Dr Clark is on an Eisenhower fellowship in the US.

Mr Robertson's name was originally on the bill when it was in the ballot.

He said the bill was about creating fairness.

"It's about giving Kiwi workers a fair go - to get their 11 public holidays seven years out of seven, not just five years in seven.

Mr Robertson said it wasn't a major impingement on business, because for five years out of seven businesses deal with those days being days off.

He said the commemorations of both Anzac Day and Waitangi Day will continue to be on April 25 and February 6 respectively.

The National and Act parties voted against the bill.

National MP for Hamilton East, David Bennett, said the effect of the bill was very remote and would not deliver for New Zealand workers.

"This bill, the next time it will be effective is 2015 for Anzac day and 2016 for Waitangi Day - but they will have to wait until 2020 for the next day.

National MP for Northland Mike Sabin said the bill had a significant fiscal consequence to employers.

"Employers need to find money to pay employees, and they have to make a profit to do this - this member will hurt small and medium businesses."

National Mr Cam Calder said he had a "visceral official distaste for the bill".

"This would have a cost of the employer - the ministry has estimated it will cost $220-$280 million to the economy."

Green MP David Clendon said the bill was about work-life balance, and New Zealanders worked some of the longest hours in the world.

New Zealand First called the bill "monumental".

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) welcomed the law change and said it is good for workers.

CTU legal advisor Jeff Sissons said the Government had overstated the cost of the bill by failing to take into account the flow-on benefits, like tourism and productivity gains.

"And even on their highest estimate, we're talking about 13 cents per employee per day, and we think that's a fair cost."

"The legislation would have a positive effect on tourism and flow into other areas such as retailers, petrol stations, bars and cafes," said Tourism Industry Association New Zealand spokesman Simon Wallace.

Domestic tourism is worth $38 million a day to New Zealand and is the "lifeblood" of many tourism operations, he said.

"We recognise that some employers may be disadvantaged by this bill with extra wage costs, but these are likely to be minimal given the situation happens only two in every seven years.

"Businesses have also told us that more long weekends will improve worker productivity, which has benefits for the whole country."

Holiday Parks Association chief executive Fergus Brown agreed.

Many holiday parks had significant increases in customers over long weekends, and the legislation would boost the whole tourism industry, he said.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association was against the change, with northern region advisory services manager David Lowe saying employers had "mixed feelings".

"Some of them support the bill, but some of them were concerned about the increased cost that it would impose on them. So on balance, we would have preferred that it hadn't gone through."

Mr Lowe said Anzac and Waitangi days were not really about holidays.

"They are commemorative days ... so I think we have to be aware about what these days really are about."

- Additional reporting: Matthew Backhouse

- NZ Herald

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