Farmers' Markets and the Department of Labour
Farmers' Markets and the Department of Labour disagree over whether the markets are entitled to open for business on Easter Sunday.
Most farmers' markets did open on Easter Sunday, claiming Labour Department approval, but some closed after warnings they might be fined.
The traders' umbrella group, Farmers' Markets New Zealand, says it was advised that the markets operate legally when opening for business on Easter Sunday.
But a Labour Department spokesman says he does not know where that information came from.
He says the law blocks most trading on specific days: Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the first half of Anzac Day.
The department's website gives exemptions to farmers' markets only when accompanied by a special trade fair or show.
The Labour Department insists there has been no change to the law which has been in place for 20 years.
At least two markets closed at Easter
At least two large farmers' markets were closed on Sunday, with operators fuming at what they say is conflicting advice from Department of Labour officials on Easter trading.
Despite having sold food and plants every Sunday for the past four years, and having had no problem at Easter time before, the Hamilton market closed this Easter Sunday.
Its chairperson, Jonathan Walker, says he had a call from the Labour Department telling him stallholders risked being fined $1000 each should they show up.
"We were a bit surprised about this. We'd phoned them in the past and been told we could trade, we're selling food."
"When I questioned them about this, they said that they'd not paid much attention to farmers' markets before but this year they were deciding to."
Given that the market vendors earn between $400 and $1500 each week, Mr Walker says, that was enough to force the cancellation of the market for Easter Sunday.
The market in Invercargill closed, though it had traded on the three previous Easter Sundays, after hearing media reports of the department's advice.
Secretary Steve Allan says its members are far from happy at the situation, having lost a total of $25,000-$30,000 in turnover.
Other markets remained open, however. Stall manager Graham Joe, of Wellington's Chaffers Market, received different advice when he rang the Department of Labour on Monday.
"They said based on the information I'd provided them about what we do here at the market they were happy for us to trade," he says.
Sort out advice, department urged
Farmers' Markets New Zealand chairman Chris Fortune says the department doesn't understand its own rules and regulations and should sort out its advice.
"Our members can trade on Easter Sunday if they come under the exemptions from the Department of Labour, but that's not what some of our guys have been told by the very department."
A lot of farmers' produce is harvested just before sale and will often not last for another week, he says, so certainty for the sector is essential.
The organisation plans to support its members who decided to trade.
Under current restrictions, only dairies, restaurants, pharmacies and petrol stations are allowed to trade on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Some specific locations also have trading exemptions.
38 businesses investigated for Easter trading
The Department of Labour says 19 out of 23 retailers checked by inspectors on Sunday were open and trading, apparently in violation of Easter Trading laws.
The department says another 19 retailers checked on Good Friday were open for business, apparently in violation of the trading laws.
Last year, 32 businesses were convicted of opening on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, resulting in fines of up to $1000.
'No need' for surcharge on Sunday
People are being urged to not put up with any surcharges if they eat out or go to cafes on Easter Sunday.
Despite trading restrictions, Easter Sunday is not a statutory holiday, and employers aren't required to pay staff public holiday rates.
Newmarket Business Association chief executive Cameron Brewer, says there's no extra cost for employers to pass on, so no need for a surcharge, unlike on Easter Monday.
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