You don't think of a country as bucolic as New Zealand as being a hotbed for worker abuse (imagine a sheep standing on the lunchroom table with a "Union" sign), yet the introduction of some new laws mandating rest breaks has thrown employers for a loop. Many are threatening closure and service reductions simply because their workers are now guaranteed a specified schedule of lunch breaks.
Air New Zealand has threatened to cut 25 domestic flights by regional carriers because air traffic controllers will now be required to take a breather at set times. Now 2,500 seats and $3 million in revenue are on the chopping block because changes to that country's Employment Relations Act allowed the Air Line Pilots Association to require workers to take breaks at scheduled times rather than on a flexible basis.
The new laws state a person working more than four hours has the right to an unpaid half-hour break. Pharmacies are also threatening a reduction of services, claiming they will have to close for lunch.
Granted, New Zealand's skies aren't a bramble of jets the way Newark's or Chicago's are, so it's not like the radars require eagle eyes every hour of the day. In fact, I've taken post-9/11 flights there that didn't even require passengers to show I.D.
There have been signs that the government may figure out ways to avert the messes, mostly by allowing for flexibility in break scheduling.
The phrase "we want lunch now, please" threatens the operation of the health and transportation industries, two components vital to modern civilization. Is it that hard, Kiwis? America's bureaucracy may be cumbersome and corrupt at times, but the kurfluffle Down Under makes a person grateful that at least we have learned how to handle simple matters such as juggling workers' rights with the ability to do business as usual.
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