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Cyprus

Small shop keepers say Sunday opening a red line

By Angelos Anastasiou

Sunday shopping remains a red line for small business union POVEK and will not be accepted, its leader Stefanos Koursaris said on Tuesday.

Koursaris was speaking after meeting with head of the President’s Office Kypros Kyprianou over the hotly contested issue of extended shop working hours.

Earlier this month, President Nicos Anastasiades referred a law voted by parliament, which regulated shop working hours in favour of small businesses by restricting big retail chains’ working schedule, to the Supreme Court citing unconstitutionality, while Labour minister Zeta Emilianidou replaced its provisions with a ministerial decree liberalising working hours to include Sunday and longer hours on weekdays until November, citing figures over the last two years – when the regime has been in force – showing increased employment.

“We consider Sunday our red line, we feel solutions can be found, and what we will not accept is working hours until 9 and 10pm, including Sundays and holidays,” Koursaris said.

Emilianidou had said at the time that the decree was the last one the government could issue, according to the law.

“This means that the policy of decrees is ended, and therefore a law regulating this matter is needed,” Koursaris argued.

“But legislation cannot be drawn up by the Supreme Court or any European Court, it will be drawn up by ourselves – there are suggestions from all stakeholders.”

Koursaris called on the President to find the balances required for a legal framework.
“The sooner he does so, the fewer businesses will be shut,” he said.

Countering the argument that the public wants shops to stay open longer, he said that the public’s desire to have everything open at all times is not feasible.

“There is a wider attempt by some to misrepresent the issue as one of better customer service and consumers’ views, but behind it lie the interests of five or ten supermarket and retail chains,” Koursaris argued.

“The crux of the matter is that each euro that can be spent each day should not go to just five people.”
Later on Tuesday, POVEK handed House president Yiannakis Omirou a memo highlighting their arguments.

In his remarks after meeting with Omirou, Koursaris said that “after the law on shop working hours was voted, things unfortunately took a turn for the worse, in the sense that not only various organisations have clashed, but a broader conflict has emerged – between the legislative and executive branches of government.

“We believed and continue to believe that the right balance must be struck, and that requires good will and compromise,” he added.

“We have asked as much of the President, so that he and [parliament] can work together to restore balance in retail trade, and society and workers in general.”

Acknowledging the constitutional conflict, Omirou said “jurisdiction has been referred to the Supreme Court”.

“But the right balance must be sought so that this conflict can be ended, because , on the one hand, judicial proceedings are generally time-consuming, and on the other, in the end decisions and legislation will be required anyway,” he said.

“What I can promise [POVEK] at this time, is that I will seek a meeting with the President in order to look for a solution to this matter.”

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