By Andria Kades
The New Recruits Movement, a group of people who are part of around 7,000 new hires under expanded shop hours, staged a protest on Wednesday outside DIKO MP Angelos Votsis’ office, accusing him of supporting “a murderous” bill banning retailers from opening on Sundays.
About 250 people congregated to express their “deep disappointment” and concerns carrying signs saying “you’re throwing us to the streets, why?” and “the same way you honour us, we will honour you during elections”.
“They were there to protest against the brutal abuse of their God-given right to work in a time of deep recession. It is unprecedented in the history of Cyprus for a MP to suggest a loss of 7,000 jobs,” head of the New Recruits Movement, Nikoletta Poulli said.
In a letter to Votsis, the movement questioned the fairness of his recommendation and to what extent he believed that their job losses would be a solution. “Which one of you will secure a job for us when we are driven to unemployment?” they asked.
Votsis responded to the accusations saying: “My primary concern is protecting medium-sized businesses that we refer to as the backbone of the Cypriot economy without implying that some people should lose their jobs, or that others should take advantage of this by firing their staff.”
He specified that the mew bill would add more working hours during the week, overcompensating for the ones that would be lost on Sundays and that he would go into further detail on Monday during a session at the House committee on labour.
“I respect and understand the worries and concerns over employment, as well as their right to protest,” he said while stating he was open to having discussions with employees.
Votsis reiterated that the power exercised by Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou – which she was recently stripped of – to issue decrees on an ad-hoc basis allowing shops to operate longer hours, created serious problems to medium-sized businesses that struggled to survive against competition from large retailers.
The Cyprus Supermarkets Association said they were not asked for their input over the matter and complained that there was inequality between shops in different cities where Famagusta supermarkets open at 7.30am to 11pm as opposed to Limassol and Paphos that open at 11am and close at 7pm.
“We want extended working hours so that supermarkets open at 9am and close at 9pm on Sundays,” association head Charalambos Papantoniou said, according to the Cyprus News Agency. This would double their staff and satisfy both consumers and tourists.
The labour ministry last week submitted its own bill where shops in Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, and Paphos, would be open from 5am to 10pm, Monday through Saturday, and 11am to 7pm on Sundays while shops in Famagusta would be open from 5am to 11pm from Monday to Saturday, and 7.30am to 11pm on Sunday.
Employee union PEO deemed it a flagrant assault on employee rights aimed at benefiting large companies at the expense of employees and small businesses.