By Andria Kades
The row over shop hours was ongoing on Tuesday, a day after President Nicos Anastasiades was asked to intervene in a bid to finally resolve the problem.
AKEL, DIKO and EDEK rebutted government proposals allowing liberalised opening hours with shops operating seven days a week, echoing comments they made during a House labour committee earlier in the week.
Under the new regulations drafted by the ministry, general (non-specialty) stores will be able to operate from 5am to 10pm Monday to Saturday, and from 11am to 7pm on Sundays. This applies to the Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos districts.
The same applies for the Famagusta district, except longer hours are allowed for Sundays – 7.30am to 11pm.
In addition, on Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve all shops will remain open no later than 6pm.
The draft bill with these hours was approved by the cabinet on November 24.
After the house labour committee on Monday failed to reach agreement, deputies decided to send a letter to Anastasiades asking him to provide a political solution to the problem.
Committee chairman Andreas Fakontis, representing AKEL, said the party would never consent to the liberal proposals and the government would bear the responsibility for any problems the industry would face if approved.
DISY’s MP Marios Mavrides said markets would suffer if the 2006 operating hours – with shops forced to close on Wednesday afternoon and Sunday – were put back into force with people likely to lose their jobs.
“We have to be careful and understand the consequences,” he told reporters.
DIKO’s MP Angelos Votsis said a solution had been found that left everyone “generally satisfied” saying during tourist periods, for six months shops could remain open on Sundays.
The government, through Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, however continues to insist on her proposals, Votsis said.
Asked how Anastasiades could intervene, he said Emilianidou had referred deputies to Cabinet and this was why the time had come for the president to step in and solve the problem in a political sense and not in a legal one.
EDEK’s Roulla Mavronicola said the government thought the regulations would regulate the market but in actuality deregulated society and family structures with small businesses struggling to cope with a difficult time schedule.
She too echoed Votsis’ comments that the six month implementation of the liberal shop hours could have satisfied most parties involved. Adding that small businesses should be protected, she stressed the matter was not legal but political, requiring consultations between those affected.
Green’s MP Giorgos Perdikis said if the government continued with the same stance, it would cripple the market.