By Angelos Anastasiou
THE ASSOCIATION of small shopkeepers POVEK and various groupings of self-employed professionals organised demonstrations and covered their store fronts in black on Thursday as part of their protest against extended shop opening hours.
“Our associations express their disagreement with the policy of unilateral decrees that you have been issuing since June 2013, which have liberalised the working hours of shops and essentially replaced current legislation,” the shopkeepers said in a petition which they handed over to Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou.
Liberalised working hours have extremely negative consequences for thousands of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), as they cannot compete with large businesses, the petition said.
“We call on you to restore legality and implement the provisions of legislation on shops’ working hours and the employment terms of their employees,” the shopkeepers said.
The shopkeepers’ association argued that the extension of working hours to 11 pm daily, including abolishing the Sunday closure, has proven disastrous to 99 per cent of businesses, and by extension to the entire economy, only serving the interests of a small number of supermarket chains and department stores.
“We are determined to escalate our protests against the issuance of illegal and improper decrees,” they warned.
The shopkeepers’ mobilisation was welcomed by leftist unions PEO and DEOK, who issued statements in support of their cause.
“The dramatic increase in unemployment disproves the labour minister’s claim that liberalising the working hours has significantly contributed to the creation of jobs,” DEOK said in its statement.
“We join our voices with the organisers of this protest so that those in high positions at the labour ministry realise that the majority of retail businesses does not condone the continuance of the policy of decrees,” PEO’s statement read.
The protest event was observed by businesses that are members of POVEK, the Pancyprian Bakers’ Association, the Pancyprian Association of Barbers and Hairdressers, the Cyprus Association of Convenience Stores, Supermarket Associations, and the associations of clothing and shoewear retailers, butchers, kiosks and commercial stores.