Pressure to work: employees

Woman using cell phone contactless payment at a shop. Photo: Getty Images
Half the employees who took part in the survey said they felt pressured to work. Photo: Getty Images

At least half those working in Dunedin on Easter Sunday this year say they felt pressured to do so by their bosses, a survey indicates.

The Dunedin City Council is set to embark on another round of consultation on the city’s Easter trading policy after it gave shops approval to open this year for the three Ed Sheeran concerts.

In November last year, councillors voted 10-5 for the policy, with the condition the bylaw would be reviewed after 90 days.

But the council’s own survey of retailers, employees and the general public showed there was mixed support for the policy to continue.

Only 26% of employees, 52% of retailers and 45% of the general public who responded to the survey supported the council retaining the policy.

A total of 287 people took part in the questionnaire.

During the debate on the policy fears were raised by unions, which said workers would be forced into working on the Sunday even though they were legally able to refuse.

Half the employees who took part in the survey said they felt pressured to work and 68% said they did not appreciate the opportunity to work.

While there was general support from retailers for the policy, only 42% said they would open their store next year if allowed.

More than half also offered staff who worked on Easter Sunday a day in lieu or time and a-half despite not being legally obliged to, as it is not an official public holiday.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said the results of the employee survey surprised him as most employers understood the law and wanted to maintain good relationships with their employees.

Mr McGowan said he would need to examine the survey results because that was not the experience the chamber’s members had reported back to him.

Dunedin’s businesses supported the choice of being allowed to open at Easter even if they did not plan to, he said.

"Whether a shop opens or not depends on a lot of things. [It] could be what else is happening in the city or the location of the shop, but it’s all about a flexible approach ... because it’s not a public holiday and people should have the choice to take it off, not be told they have to."

First Union organiser Shirley Walthew said the survey results were not surprising and backed what the union’s members had been reporting about their experiences.

"Even though the employees were told ‘oh you don’t have to work’, the underlying current was ‘we’d be disappointed if you don’t’ sort of thing."

Ms Walthew said the union would be pushing hard for the policy to be dropped.

"Most of  the workers we talk to have told us they’re not interested in working Easter Sunday. They only get three and-half guaranteed days off a year and they don’t want to have to argue with their boss to get [it] off."

The public as well as businesses and unions will be able to have their say on the policy during the consultation period, which will run from July 2 to August 3.

A panel made up of Crs Andrew Whiley (chairman), Marie Laufiso, Kate Wilson and Damian Newell will again hear the arguments for and against the policy before they report back to a full council with a recommendation due in November.

Dunedin’s three Ed Sheeran concerts injected close to $38 million into the city’s economy after 108,274 seats were sold for the concerts,  67% of concert-goers coming from outside  Dunedin.

tim.miller@odt.co.nz

Comments

Management disappointment in employee choice is not being 'forced' to work. It is management disappointment.

Strangely enough, it's a rare worker who escapes boss disapproval all of the time.