Archbishop Chrysostomos on Monday said that he had made many interventions to the government for shops to remain closed on August 15 and on Sundays but without any result.
Speaking to CyBC on the occasion of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Archbishop said his efforts had not been heard.
“The supermarkets want to be open, but the poor people want to close their little shops (on Sundays) to go to church but most importantly to be with their family, with their children,” the Archbishop said.
Large shop owners will not get poorer, they ought to respect the Lord’s day, Sunday, like all other public holidays, he was quoted as saying by the CyBC.
“We made a request, and we told them that it is unacceptable. All shops should be closed on Sundays,” the Archbishop said.
According to CyBC, authorities reported 52 businesses by Monday afternoon that opted to open for business despite last week’s warnings by the labour ministry that they should remain closed on August 15 by law. The labour ministry however would not confirm the number on Tuesday.
General secretary of supermarkets’ association Andreas Hadjiadamou said that the issue will be dealt with through the judiciary.
“We do not understand the rage expressed to the supermarkets just because they choose to operate and serve the needs of consumers and of the economy,” he said. Hadjiadamou reiterated that there is no legislation in place forcing shops to remain closed on August 15 and debated the legality of the reports.
“Let justice decide once again about who’s right”.
In his turn the head of small shop owners’ union, POVEK, Stefanos Koursaris said that the existing situation in retail “is a robbery at the expense of small and medium sized businesses”.
This serves the interests of supermarket chains and malls, he said, while small shops are closing down.
As of September, he said, POVEK will call on the workers’ unions SEK, PEO and DEOK “in a joint struggle to defend the rights of the employees and of small shop owners”.
The labour ministry had warned on Friday, for the second time within a week, that all general shops had to remain closed on Monday’s bank holiday, while those businesses that would open, would be reported for breaking the law.
Shop owners countered that the law was unconstitutional. Following a number of court rulings and disagreements between the government and opposition parties as to whether the legislative body had the right to decide on issues like shop hours, the old law from 2006 regulating shop working hours was triggered, which did not allow them to work on Sundays.
But in the ruling of an appeal filed by CA Papaellinas Ltd against a fine imposed by the government for opening its Alpha Mega supermarket on a Sunday, the Nicosia district court said the 2006 law was unconstitutional, thus leaving the issue unregulated.
The retailers’ association however, called on the labour ministry to report all those businesses that will be open on August 15 but who did not give their employees the benefits required by law for holiday work, such as double pay.