By Constantinos Psillides
The House labour committee failed once again to reach an agreement on Monday over shop opening hours, paving the way for a compromise proposal tabled by DIKO Angelos Votsis that calls for extended shopping hours only for seasonal businesses.
The committee met on Monday to discuss main opposition party’s AKEL proposal of reinstating the 2012 regulations, which stipulated that only businesses that fell in the so called “tourist area” zones are allowed extended shopping hours. These zones could be somewhat confusing, as it allowed one business to extend its shopping hours while a similar business one street away was not.
In 2013, the government had tried to ditch the existing regulations, allowing Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou to issue periodic decrees allowing shops to operate on Sundays from 11am to 7pm and Wednesday afternoons.
Opposition parties protested the new regulations, arguing that it allowed for employers to abuse workers rights while at the same hitting small business owners who would not be able to compete. The parliament decided to strip the minister of her right to issue decrees and force her to come up with a new framework to be discussed at the committee.
The ministry’s proposal is scheduled to be discussed on Thursday but is likely to be rejected. AKEL tabled its own proposal on Monday but that too was dismissed.
With both sides not giving an inch, DIKO’s proposal seems to be gaining momentum.
Votsis told the Cyprus Mail that his goal is to eliminate the “tourist zones” and instead allow for an exception in areas that only work during the summer months. “On the side it’s not fair for small business owners to be forced to come to work on Sunday or be burdened with the cost of hiring an extra employee but on the other we can’t take this away from businesses that only work during the summer season,” said Votsis.
To secure support for his amendment, Votsis also accepted that the Latsi and Polis Chrysochou areas in the Paphos district, as well as Ayia Thekla in the Famagusta district would also be allowed extended shopping hours. The DIKO MP said that there is also pressure to include the old town of Nicosia in the list.
He told the Cyprus Mail that since Nicosia is a divided city, closing shops on Sunday would only encourage tourists to go to the occupied areas for shopping.
“Personally, I disagree with including Nicosia on the list. But it’s on the table now so we’ll see,” he said.
The Labour Committee is expected to meet again on Tuesday and decide on the finalised proposal.
But while the majority of the parliamentary might be in agreement, the proposal isn’t looked at favourably by the government. Emilianidou said that all proposals that divide businesses into categories will be rejected since they are “opposed to all good administration principles, since it allows for some businessmen to keep their stores open while others cannot.”
Emilianidou told the press following the meeting that the government would support small business owners by granting them a 60 per cent salary subsidy for Sunday for additional employees.