The seemingly endless debate over shop opening hours continued on Wednesday with Akel saying that although extended hours had increased the numbers of jobs, overall expenditure on salaries had fallen.
MPs and the government in consultation with stakeholders are trying to find a final solution on shop hours that has long proved elusive.
Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC radio on Wednesday, House labour committee chairman, Akel’s Andreas Fakontis said that the committee would meet with President Nicos Anastasiades within the month to discuss the matter.
A supreme court ruling last year that the 2006 law on shop opening hours’ law was unconstitutional led to confusion as to when shops should remain closed on Sundays.
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 shops’ working hours was triggered, which did not allow them to work on Sundays.
But in the ruling of an appeal filed by C.A. 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 issue was discussed on Tuesday at the House labour committee in the presence of the Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou.
Fakontis said that during consultations, all sides had reached a consensus but that the government had backed down.
Emilianidou said on Tuesday that the proposal was for shops to remain closed on Sunday for six months of the year and open the other half.
“This position could not be accepted as the main concern of the government are workers and we could not accept that they would be out of work for six months,” Emilianidou said.
She also said that as the parliament has stripped the labour minister of the right to issue decrees on shop hours, the executive no longer has any authority on the issue.
Fakontis stressed the need for a solution to be found.
“Shops are open seven days per week. This cannot continue forever,” he said, adding that other proposals had been discussed including shops being open some Sundays each month.
As to the argument that if shops close on Sundays this would put many people out of work, Fakontis said that hiring more staff – usually part-timers – disadvantaged the full-timers.
“The working hours of the full-time staff were reduced from 40 per week, to 30-25 hours so that employers could hire more people and support the argument that shops remaining open on Sundays has contributed to more people finding a job,” Fakontis said.
“We recognise that some people were hired, but we do not agree with the numbers reported,” the Akel MP said.
“How can such an increase in staff be in place but the overall expenditure in salaries to have been reduced compared to previous years?” he asked.
According to data the committee had at its disposal, he said, salaries paid after shop hours were extended are smaller than before.
“This is exhausting. We need a permanent solution” he said.