By Evie Andreou
A LITERAL BLACK Thursday for small shop owners will be held this week as small shopkeepers’ union POVEK yesterday announced the symbolic hanging of black flags on the windows of their businesses island wide.
“We chose Thursday because it is a symbolic day. Our businesses are dying and heading toward ruination and closure,” said POVEK General Secretary Stefanos Koursaris.
Accompanied by representatives of the Pancyprian Bakers’ Association, Association of Convenience stores (SYKADE), supermarket chains MAS and SAVEMORE, the Pancyprian Association of Butchers and the Pancyprian Association of Kiosk-owners, Koursaris said all parties disagreed with the liberalisation of shop hours, demanding that they be legally adjusted to re-establish balance in retail.
They are also determined to fight the oligopolies and monopolies in Cyprus’ economy and retail.
On Thursday black flags will be hung on the windows of shops and between 12 and 1pm shop staff will stand outside them as a mark of protest.
There will also be gatherings in all towns for the approval of the memorandum which will be handed over to Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou.
More action is set to follow.
“This is only the beginning” said Koursaris, who said POVEK is determined to take drastic measures if their demands are not met by the minister. “We will even go on a hunger strike if we have to,” Koursaris said.
He said the businesses of those protesting are “going through the worst period since 1974”.
President of the Pancyprian Baker’s Association Lakis Savvides said the one-sided change of shop hours did not improve the situation, and that it has served the few instead. He also said that from the 8,000 people employed in bakeries two years ago, the number has now fallen to 2,000.
The decree allows shops to open on Sunday as long as some new staff are taken on to cover the hours. Small shopkeepers say they do not have the means to employ more people. It was set for an initial three month period in July last year and then renewed until the end of November before being renewed again until the end of May.
SYKADE vice-president Stavros Karayiannis said the decree brings imbalance to the market and in the long-run the consumers will also be at a loss and called on the labour minister to immediately stop the decree.
Representative of the Pancyprian Association of Kiosk-owners Lakis Zourides said it is only big shops that benefit from the extended hours and that the decree should change so that small businesses, mainly family businesses, can survive. He said that 170 kiosks have closed down and 480 are fighting for survival.
The newly founded large retailers’ association (Pancyprian Association of Retailers) is calling for the extended shop hours to become permanent.