By Angelos Anastasiou
The House labour committee on Monday decided to prepare a legislative proposal raising the penalties for shop owners violating the legally-prescribed schedule of operating hours, and discuss the possibility of compromising on the issue with the government.
At its Monday session, the committee voted to introduce an issue for discussion with the labour ministry, aiming to look into the amendment of the 2006 law on shops’ opening hours, which came into effect last month due to a constitutional stand-off triggered by parliament’s voting against the government’s proposed rules liberalising opening hours.
The committee plans to propose an extended opening schedule on weekdays and Saturday, but staying shut on Sunday.
Committee chairman Andreas Fakondis said the goal is, on the one hand, to avert anarchy in retail trade by safeguarding adherence to the law, and, on the other, to amend or improve existing legislation to strengthen employment prospects, by streamlining opening hours on Wednesday and Saturday with those of the rest of the week – except Sunday.
According to the 2006 law, he added, retailers may stay open until 3 pm on Wednesdays, and 7 pm on Saturday.
The retail market reverted to the 2006 law after parliament tried to replace the government’s plan of liberalising opening hours by ministerial decree with a restrictive law disallowing Sundays. The bill was vetoed by President Nicos Anastasiades, and the Supreme Court ruled that parliament has no say on shops’ opening hours policy – only the executive did.
“Our goal is for closing hours to be extended to 7 pm every day of the week,” Fakondis said.
“On Sunday, they will remain closed, as mandated by law.”
DIKO MP Angelos Votsis said the committee’s efforts aim to address the anarchy prevalent in retail trade.
“Our first decision was that a legislative proposal will be drafted by the committee, making penalties tougher for those violating the shops’ opening hours,” Votsis said, referring to many shopkeepers’ refusal to abide by the new restrictive regime and risking fines by staying open on Sundays.
“Also, to discuss amending the 2006 law, with the government’s consent, to align Wednesday and Saturday with the rest of the weekdays, thus disbanding the excuse for firing staff.”
At the same time, Votsis noted, we have motioned that the committee asks for a hearing by the president so that we can defuse the problem.
The proposal, he added, was met positively by EDEK and the Greens, with AKEL yet to position itself – ruling DISY did not favour the plan.
“We insist that the president must function as the president of all Cypriots, who can safeguard the rights of both small and large players in retail trade,” Votsis argued.
Asked to comment on the Supreme Court hearing of the government’s appeal against parliament’s right to turn down government policy on this matter, which starts on Tuesday, Votsis said the hearing starts tomorrow, but “it’s not likely that a ruling will be issued tomorrow”.