Greece may have accepted the terms of a new bailout deal, conceding to the country’s creditors demands for excessive reforms and a series of further austerity measures, but there are some matters that are still up for negotiation, not least among them the issue of retail shop trading hours.
The matter has been a subject of debate for years, with the International Monetary Fund pressing for retail shops to be open on Sundays, according to the directive of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The suggestion has been met with harsh opposition by the unions in Greece, both the ones representing workers and owners, while even the church has intervened in the debate, defending Sunday as a day devoted to worship.
Workers are concerned that they will be pressed to work longer hours without being paid penalty rates, while shop owners express their concern that, if voted in, the law will allow for large chain retail shops and multinationals to dominate the market and lead family businesses out of work.
The State Council, one of Greece’s supreme courts, has already issued a ruling on the matter, stating that it is unconstitutional for retail shops to trade on Sundays, with the exception of specific areas of tourist interest.
The current law allows for retail shops to trade on eight Sundays a year, but during negotiations, the Greek government and the creditors tried to find a compromise by extending the officially proclaimed tourist season by a month and reconsidering the criteria according to which an area is deemed tourist-oriented.
According to government sources, the tourist season in Greece will officially extend from May to September and tourist areas will include the seaside suburbs of Athens. In these areas, shops will be allowed to open on 32 Sundays a year.