By George Psyllides
SUPERMARKET owners on Monday accused opposition MPs of pandering to the demands of convenience stores by tabling a bill stripping the labour minister of the power to issue decrees extending shop hours.
The legislative proposal aims to put an end to the labour minister’s decrees – issued on ad hoc basis – and so force the government to explicitly and comprehensively regulate the matter of shop opening hours by introducing relevant legal regulations.
“They want to satisfy a small group of professionals who want to maintain their privileges in the market at the expense of the entire economy, growth and employment,” the supermarket association said in a statement.
The bill is authored by AKEL, and co-sponsored by DIKO MP Angelos Votsis and EDEK deputy Roula Mavronikola. It is expected to be discussed by the plenum in 15 days.
AKEL is pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of the current regime, as it opposes the government decision to extend shop hours across the island (previously reserved for tourist areas only) to include Wednesday afternoons and Sundays.
The move is also opposed by POVEK, the small shop owners association.
The government introduced the measure in July 2013 in a bid to boost the economy.
Supermarkets accused the parties of seeking to protect the interest of convenience stores instead of the broader benefits that Cypriot consumers will have through healthy and fair competition.
“SYKADE’s (convenience store association) version of the smooth operation of the market is closing shops in certain areas on certain days and having restrictions for its own protection,” the association said.
AKEL says the measure is a flop, arguing that it only benefitted large retailers at the expense of small businesses, which cannot compete.
The party has cited its own figures showing that hundreds of convenience stores and bakeries have shut down, with some 2,700 people losing their jobs.
But retailers have hailed the measure as a success, which not only boosted the market but also provided employment to over 6,000.
SYKADE responded to the supermarkets’ “unfounded and unjustified” accusations.
Its chairman Giorgos Theodoulou said they did not wish any business to close or people to lose their jobs.
“We know well what this means, since 500 convenience stores have shut down, and other small and medium businesses close each day,” Theodoulou said.
He accused supermarkets of aiming at concentrating the whole retail market in their hands.