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Sunday opening not destroying small business, labour minister says

Shoppers

Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou on Sunday rubbished claims by small businesses that extended opening hours were destroying them and exploiting workers, as a final Supreme Court ruling on the issue is expected any day.

In an interview with Politis on Sunday, Emilianidou said that businesses such as kiosks and bakeries have been working 24/7 for many years and that “no government has failed to safeguard these workers’ rights”.

“The labour relations department of the ministry carries out checks each week for working hours, remuneration, and minimum wage for overtime pay, etc,” Emilianidou said, adding that Sunday work required double pay. The ministry also initiates prosecutions in case of violations and had already prosecuted a number of individuals and legal entities, she said.

“We monitor the working hours, if people are paid their 13th salaries. We receive anonymous and named complaints from employees and we voluntarily inspect to see if an employer is exploiting workers,” she added.

“With particular regard to the issue of opening hours I would point out once again that with such high unemployment, the primary concern is job creation. The problems faced by small businesses is certainly a concern but they will not be solved by restricting opening hours,” the minister said.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court deferred its judgment having concluded hearings into the dispute between the government and the legislature on shop-opening hours.

The issue pertains to a standoff between the legislature and the executive over who has the final say in matters relating to retail trade regulations.
The government wants a liberal working-hour schedule for shops, including the right to stay open on Sunday, which opposition parties claim benefits the large chains but is slowly squeezing out small businesses who cannot afford to stay open as long.

The state is seeking a ruling that a parliament decision, dated December 10, 2015, which rejected regulations tabled by the government regarding shop opening hours, “violates the principle of separation of powers and is invalid”.

It is also asking for a judgement that the rejected regulations continued to be valid and should come into force immediately.

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