By Andria Kades
THE new shop hours proposal is not only discriminatory but seems to be unconstitutional, parliament speaker Yiannakis Omirou said on Wednesday.
Speaking on the CyBC programme Apo Mera se Mera he said “of course it is not possible to create two tier tourist zones and introduce an arbitrary policy of discrimination.”
“I think it is necessary that there should be second thoughts over this or else there will be social upheaval.”
The bill, proposed by DIKO MP Angelos Votsis and expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday has the backing of AKEL and EDEK, securing enough votes to pass.
On Tuesday, Omirou posted his opinion on Twitter saying “in regards to the proposed legislation for shop hours, I find the discrimination between tourist areas unthinkable.”
Supermarket groups were also opposed to the suggestion that shop hours would be extended on weekdays from 5am to 9pm from Monday to Saturday and would be closed on Sundays with stores in Ayia Napa, Protaras and the Latsi and Polis Chrysochous area in Paphos exempted from the rule.
Those areas, that mostly work during the summer season, according to Votsis, will be allowed to operate on Sundays between May and November. Souvenir shops and stores that sell traditional products relating to Cypriot culture will be allowed to work on Sundays all year round.
The move will leave popular tourist destinations such as Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos at an unfair disadvantage and while luxury cruise ships “come to our ports for a whole day, there will be closed shops and a deserted city,” the Cyprus Hotel Association (PASYXE) manager Zacharias Ioannides said.
AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis said his party will table an amendment allowing jewellery stores and supermarkets up to 150 square meters to be included. It will also ask for the old town of Nicosia and the Coral Bay area in Paphos to be included in the tourist areas designation.
Small shopkeepers’ union POVEK and the Association of Nicosia Pedestrian Shops said they supported AKEL’s proposal and stressed they wanted Nicosia old town to have the same privileges as those tabled by DIKO.
POVEK General Secretary Stephanos Koursaris added shopkeepers in Ledra Street were struggling to keep their stores open particularly after the checkpoints opened for the occupied areas and it was the state’s obligation to assist the 20,000 local and foreign visitors to the area by keeping shops on Sundays.
DIKO’s proposal is “without logic, studies or evidence that will bring a fatal blow not only in retail but to the broader economy,” general secretary of the Cyprus Retail Trade Association Marios Antoniou added.
He cited statistics by the Labour ministry that showed about 7,000 Cypriots were employed by the move to open shops on Sundays and would now be left without a job.
“All studies that show the positive impact of the measure to consumers have been thrown in the garbage bin by certain MPs of DIKO, EDEK and AKEL,” while he accused them of ignoring people who believe Cyprus should be dealt with as one single tourist destination and not divided into zones.
Their opinions were supported by another seven groups who called for all shops in Cyprus to be open on Sundays namely the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce (KEVE), the Union of Retail Trade Businesses (ENELEK), supermarkets, fruit-markets and producers associations, the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV), and the New Recruits Movement who are a group of people, part of the around 7,000 new hires under expanded shop hours.