By Maria Gregoriou
THE LABOUR ministry issued a plea on Tuesday to give the new opening hours a chance after small shopkeepers’ union POVEK announced it would legally challenge the decree.
The decree, announced last week allows shops to stay open longer, and on Sundays in a move aimed at helping the unemployed and businesses.
After a meeting on Monday night, POVEK said it planned to legally challenge the decree, and sent a letter to President Nicos Anastasiades asking for an immediate meeting.
Labour relations department head Andrea Mylonas said on Tuesday the decree should be given a chance to be properly implemented.
Inspectors on Sunday visited shops to see if it was being properly implemented and if new employees were being taken on.
“It is a fact that the inspectors found that only a few new employees had been hired but some businesses are planning to hire more staff soon,” Mylonas said.
The labour department currently has 55 requests for the hiring of staff, he added. Inspections were primarily carried out in large commercial areas where many shops are under the same roof.
“Smaller shops did not utilise the scheme on Sunday but it is still early and we cannot know how things will develop,” Mylonas said.
POVEK released a statement yesterday outlining the position it holds on the negative impact on the market from the new opening hours, and the measures the union plans to take.
It demands that the decree be withdrawn immediately as the union “finds it to be a counterproductive measure that will create devastating effects to the market”.
“The decree will not lead to an increase in consumption nor will it help to generate employment,” the union said. “It will have the exact opposite effects of closing down businesses, increasing unemployment and disrupting society.”
The union is requesting an urgent meeting with the president inform him that 99 per cent of retail businesses have not adopted the new hours, POVEK said.
POVEK general-secretary Stefanos Koursaris said the remaining one per cent comprised large enterprises and malls. More market share would be shifted to these large businesses while negatively impacting smaller ones, he said. “They have already taken a big bite from the market share,” he added.
POVEK will also approach the commission for the protection of competition, the union said, and would present to government and parliament “the need for more effective measures to better the economy”
These include lower interest rates and rent, the removal of restrictions on domestic transactions and the implementation of laws and rulings that will regulate and enhance healthy competition.
“These measures will restore credibility and confidence in the financial system,” POVEK said.
The decision to enable shops outside tourist areas to stay open later and on Sundays was announced by the labour ministry on July 9 and implemented on July 12.
The scheme is optional and businesses can use the longer working hours according to their needs. The situation will continuously be monitored and it is set for a trial period of three months.