By Angelos Anastasiou
THE Council of Ministers yesterday rubber stamped the Labour ministry’s proposal to extend shop working hours across the island, and authorised Labour minister Zeta Emilianidou to continue negotiations with stakeholders aimed at securing a permanent solution with regard to working hours for retail shops.
After the cabinet session, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said that “this programme was considered to contribute to increasing employment during this time.” He was referring to the period since July 2013, when the government first issued the initial decree extending shop working hours island-wide to match those of shops in tourist areas – i.e., including Wednesday afternoons and Sundays as normal working days.
“Because the government wants to be fair to all sides, without ignoring the demands of small businesses and shop owners, it grants this extension while authorising the Labour minister to continue talks in order to determine the most balanced framework of shop working hours, so that all stakeholders can be satisfied within the context of the Cyprus economy’s prospects and the economic boost aimed at by the government,” Papadopoulos said.
Since initially imposed, the measure has been resisted by various left-wing organisations, including small-business association POVEK and employee union PEO, who have deemed it a flagrant assault on employee rights aimed at benefiting large companies at the expense of employees and small businesses.
“The Labour minister, for the sixth time in a row, continues the policy of decrees in the retail market, with no negotiation and dialogue with any of the affected parties, and ignoring the cries of employees, who can only watch as their rights are violated, and small businesses, who are crumbling,” an announcement issued by PEO said.
“The situation has deteriorated beyond repair. All they seem to be considering is how best to serve powerful interests.”
Previously, in the face of a possible non-renewal of the government’s decree, a newly-formed group of employees who apparently benefited from the government scheme, staged a protest in favour of the measure’s extension on Monday.
Meanwhile, later yesterday the Finance ministry released statistics suggesting that a total of 6,872 individuals were, and remain, employed in the retail market from July 2013 to May 2014, with the increase being attributed to the government decrees liberalising shop working hours.
Specifically, total hiring in the retail market during this period were 10,129, with some individuals landing more than one of the jobs. Of these, 2,003 had been registered as unemployed during the first six months in 2013, and 3,096 have since been laid off.
In terms of earnings, the Labour ministry announced that approximately 15 per cent were paid a salary of up to €350, roughly 9 per cent was paid up to €500, 23 per cent received up to €800, and 53 per cent had a salary of over €800.