NEWS

Revamping store hours

The Inner Cabinet yesterday approved the content of a bill aimed at extending store opening hours and which looks set to put the government on another collision course with unions who oppose the plan. The 14-point draft law, unveiled by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, aims more generally at boosting employment and investment. «[The reforms] will help create the best possible circumstances for the development of retail commerce in the next few years,» he said. The main element of the bill, which was fine-tuned after its initial unveiling in March, is to do away with the current winter and summer schedules for shop opening hours as well as regional variations. It allows stores to remain open until 9 p.m. on weekdays throughout the year, and until 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Compared to the current system, this would mean an extra hour on winter weekdays and two more hours on Saturdays. The minister quashed rumors that shops would be allowed to open on Sundays. «The subject of retail stores opening on Sunday is not up for discussion,» he said. Sioufas also sought to allay fears that workers’ rights would be eroded with shops being allowed to set their own opening hours. Sioufas argued that the new schedule would benefit everyone. «First, workers will increase their income. Secondly, the unemployed will have more job opportunities. Thirdly, consumers will have more time to shop. Fourthly, retail commerce will increase its sales,» he said. Not everyone viewed the draft law with the same enthusiasm. The National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) voiced its concern, saying that it preferred local shop owner unions to set the opening hours for their members in various parts of the country. ESEE fears that longer hours will force small and medium-sized stores to pay overtime or take on extra staff. Local officials also made known their opposition to the plans, arguing there was nothing wrong with the previous system, which allowed each prefecture to have the final say on store opening hours. Athens and Piraeus Prefect Fofi Gennimata said customers were more concerned about their diminishing purchasing power than in store opening hours. The draft law still allows local authorities in tourist areas to regulate store hours.