The Council of Trade Unions has added its voice to the annual debate on Easter trading, saying that the requirement that retailers close on Friday and Sunday is not onerous and should be respected.
"The current Easter Sunday trading restrictions ensure that retail workers have at least some ability to participate in the huge range of family, community and religious activities that take place around New Zealand over Easter," said CTU secretary Carol Beaumont.
"In 1990 most shops could not trade on any Sunday and they were unable to open on nine of the 11 recognised public holidays. Now they can trade on 51 out of 52 Sundays and every public holiday except Good Friday, Christmas Day and the morning of Anzac Day."
Ms Beaumont said the trading restrictions in place over Easter were not onerous and needed to be respected.
"There needs to be some community days when shop employees can join other workers for a holiday, and the three and a half days a year where shops cannot trade is a pretty small restriction on retailers."
Labour Minister Trevor Mallard yesterday announced the Government was not planning to change the trading laws because submissions to a discussion paper showed the community was polarised on the issue.
He said business owners and business groups generally supported an easing of the rules, while unions and churches wanted them to stay as they are.
The discussion document was issued after the defeat of a bill that would have allowed local councils to decide whether shops in their areas should be able to open on Easter Sunday.
An earlier bill that would have allowed all shops to open on Easter Sunday was also defeated.
"The Government seems to have taken the easy way out by yet again kicking for touch," Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said.
"We are extremely disappointed that Mr Mallard will not introduce legislation to remove the anomalies."
Exemptions for shops to open on Easter Sunday already exist, but there are persistent complaints about the irregular way they apply.
Some tourist destinations, such as Queenstown and Taupo, can trade and so can dairies and service stations selling food, drink, household items, personal items and fuel.
Shops selling mainly souvenirs, duty free goods, pharmacies and garden centres are also exempt.
Traders who flout the rules face a maximum fine of $1000.
Green Party MP Sue Bradford said the Easter trading legislation did not adequately protect workers' rights to spend their public holiday with family or friends.
The Catholic organisation Caritas welcomed Mr Mallard's announcement, saying that Easter was the most sacred of days for Christians.