Paying the “true cost”

datePosted on 06:00, February 8th, 2009 by Anita

Over at The Hand Mirror Anna has a post up about the anti-worker sentiment expressed by the 15% holiday surcharge, and I totally agree. But … :)

One of the things about the holiday surcharge is that it passes on to me the cost of disrupting someone else’s holiday. I am asking for someone to work on their holiday, shouldn’t I pay for my convenience? Penal rates are designed, in part, to be a disincentive to employers making people work on public holidays, so it makes a certain amount of sense that is is passed on to act as a disincentive to me.

In a free market economy ideal where nothing is to be banned, price signals take the place of regulation, and price signals are only effective when the cost is paid by the decision maker. So if we have accepted the free market approach, the question in this case is who the decision maker is; the cafe owner who opens the doors, or the cafe patron who comes through them?

This illustrates one of the many downsides of relying on price signals to define acceptable behaviour: some of us can pay  and some cannot; some can afford to turn down the money, some cannot. Secondly price signals very quickly turn into a price for everything and a value for nothing. if it’s worth it to your business you can open on a public holiday and pay the price, if it’s worth it to your business you can stick to the dangerous work practice and just pay the price of the deaths you cause.

So, paying 15% on a public holiday. It probably succeeds as a disincentive to some, but for many people all it does it prove that public holidays of the poor can be bought by the wealthy.

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7 Responses to “Paying the “true cost””

  1. jcuknz on February 8th, 2009 at 08:21

    I am amused by your final conclusions which sound like the typical cry of dispair from the Unions.

    Personally all my life I worked in various occupations which had me ‘on call’ 365 days a year. Some of this was to serve the majority who worked a 40 hour week Monday to Friday during their days off. The rest becuase my industry was operating 24/7 and what a squeal would come from the public if it didn’t :-)

    Anyway my position is that every worker should work a five day week, or other way of working 37.5 < 40 hours and earn enough for a reasonable living. But those four/five days can be any of the seven. Sacrificing ones holiday to serve the public is union bunkum. It is wonderful and very useful to have days off during the ‘working week’.

    If you don’t want to pay the surcharge then stay at home or take sandwiches and thermos with you … simple!

    Mind you like any worker I worked the penal rate system to be on duty at Christmas etc, x3 pay for doing very little actual work. What work got done but I usually had lunch with my family. Then the family and I took our holidays later in Jan/Feb when the weather was better …. have you noticed how it always rains at christmas new year when most poor folk are on holiday?

  2. BeShakey on February 8th, 2009 at 11:58

    I think one of the important worries, is whether this has just become another profit making measure. Particularly in the case of food and drink costs at the Stadium for the 7s (which are already sky high because of an enforced lack of competition (in some cases they won’t even let you bring in unopened bottles of water), a surcharge just added to the profits. Outside the stadium (where something more like a proper market operated) most places didn’t charge the surcharge because the increased number of customers covered all the additional costs.

  3. Brett Dale on February 8th, 2009 at 19:24

    Year ago when I worked in the food industry, we couldn’t wait to work on a public holiday, because it meant more money.

  4. leftrightout on February 9th, 2009 at 11:45

    The problem is that a number of sectors (namely retail) have been allowed to turn Public Holidays into an excuse to work, when the purpose is to give workers a break so they can relax, spend time with family and friends, or just do something that isn’t working.

    Personally I wouldn’t care if most things were shut on Public Holidays, maybe the petrol stations or supermarkets could stay open. If the restaurant isn’t open, go for a picnic instead, get out there and enjoy it, after all that’s the purpose of a holiday isn’t it?

    Of course though business would be opposed to anything that gives workers a break from working. They’ve always been opposed to annual leave, more public holidays, flexible working hours etc. Were it up to business there’d be no such thing as a holiday because holidays are not ‘productive’.

  5. StephenR on February 9th, 2009 at 12:12

    The problem is that a number of sectors (namely retail) have been allowed to turn Public Holidays into an excuse to work, when the purpose is to give workers a break so they can relax, spend time with family and friends, or just do something that isn’t working.

    What if I want to work?

    Of course though business would be opposed to anything that gives workers a break from working. They’ve always been opposed to annual leave, more public holidays, flexible working hours etc. Were it up to business there’d be no such thing as a holiday because holidays are not ‘productive’.

    They are generally opposed to legislated holidays. In order to compete for workers, chances are they’d have to offer holidays, or no one would work for them. I realise that this could mean low skilled workers could get no holidays/holiday pay at all…

  6. Rich on February 11th, 2009 at 21:26

    I regard holiday surcharges as showing that the business owner is both a tightwad, and not really very good at running a business if they can’t budget for extra wages (and usually extra income) at public holidays.

    I can recommend for those in Wellington Midnight Expresso, which does *not* charge a public holiday surcharge.

    Mind you, I don’t really believe in public holidays. We should have 11 days more compulsory annual leave, to be taken at a time of the employees choosing. If I want to work Xmas day and take July off, I should be able to.

  7. Lew on February 11th, 2009 at 22:23

    Rich,

    I can recommend for those in Wellington Midnight Expresso, which does *not* charge a public holiday surcharge.

    Midnight Espresso. And I second the recommendation – but then, my two siblings run the place ;)

    L

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