The youth wing of leftist AKEL on Saturday went on a nationwide campaign covering 17 shopping areas islandwide to make young workers aware of their rights when it came to opening hours.
“Through our campaign, we sought to inform youth in the retail sector but also across the whole of society of our opposition to the liberalisation of shop opening hours,” a statement from the youth party said.
“We wanted to inform society about the enormous economic and social problems caused by the liberalisation of opening hours and the abolition of Sunday as non working day. These policies are directed against the interests of the vast majority of workers in the retail sector and favour a handful of businessmen who make excessive profits on the backs of many.”.
It added that at the same time, there was an unprecedented move to circumvent labor rights and violate collective agreements and working hours by employers.
Citing figures, EDON said that since 2012, jobs in retail had decreased by 2,500, that 15,000 small to medium-sized business had closed and that 80 per cent of all sales in the retail trade in 2014 were made by the big chain stores.
At the same time, the number of those whose wages were below €350 had increased by 100 per cent, while 50 per cent of new hires were being paid a salary below €800.
“We urge the government to listen to the needs and concerns of society and stop working as the guardians of magnates,” the party said, and called on young workers to resist the government’s machinations, to organize and to fight for a life of dignity.”
This week, opposition parties said they were submitting a bill providing for stricter penalties for shops which violated working hours. AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis said the fine for first offenders would increase from up to €30,000 to up to €50,000 and jail time to two years instead of one.
Second time offenders could be fined up to €70,000 and three years in jail, he added. If an owner breaks the law for the third time, a court would have the authority to close the shop for up to six months.
The bill was supported by AKEL, EDEK, the Green Party, and DIKO MP Angelos Votsis.
It is the latest twist in a protracted dispute between parliament and government over shop hours, which is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court next month.
Retailers accused parliament on Thursday of killing enterprise.
“The efforts of some MPs to intimidate by approving unnecessary, tough, and disproportionate penalties whose aim is to terrorise, are reminiscent of totalitarian regimes,” they said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these MPs consider themselves above the constitution and the Supreme Court decisions, violating the constitutional rights of shop owners and workers and at the same time ignoring the preferences of the vast majority of consumers and the loss of jobs.”