The Slovenia Times

Motion to close shops Sundays okayed at first reading


The motion, announced ahead of Labour Day by the Left together with the Trade Union of Shop Assistants, was rendered fit for further reading in a 65:12 vote.

However, the end of Sunday shopping is not the forgone conclusion that it looked like after the motion had been immediately welcomed by PM Janez Janša, Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj of the junior coalition New Slovenia (NSi) as well Church representatives.

A turn of events followed this Monday, as the government announced it did not support the proposal, saying it was presently inappropriate due the economic fallout from Covid-19 and that dialogue among social partners was the better way to go about this.

The latter argument has been highlighted by the senior coalition Democrats (SDS), although they insist they are in favour, and PM Janša who tweeted that it is "not appropriate to pass such legislation without a prior discussion at the Economic and Social Council," the industrial relations forum.

Janša, who said the closure had not been envisaged in the coalition agreement, added shops would be closed Sundays, however with the vitally needed exceptions that are to be agreed in social dialogue.

"The positions of coalition parties on this subject differ. Our stance is that the shops be closed and I think this solution will be adopted in parliament. Countries in Europe that have shops closed Sundays are functioning completely normally and these are mostly countries wealthier than Slovenia," the PM told Radio Ognjišče today.

The SDS's position was echoed in the parliamentary debate by the NSi, while support to the plan was denied by the junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and opposition National Party (SNS), which argue it interferes with free business initiative.

"The proposal comes at the wrong time and is a departure from all the sensible measures adopted recently to mitigate the impact of the crisis," the SMC's Janja Sluga added, saying it would make sense to expand the list of exceptions in further debate.

The junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) was divided on the motion, while all the opposition parties bar the SNS expressed support, although the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) is not sure all workers are in favour and the SocDems reproached the Left for bypassing the Economic and Social Council.

The Left, which has been highlighting the right of retail workers to Sunday rest, accused the government of flip-flopping. The party's leader Luka Mesec reiterated in the debate that voters had already decided in a referendum in 2003 that stores should be closed on Sundays only to be ignored due to pressure from retailers later.

People have shown during the crisis that it is simple to get all the shopping done in six days and the feasibility of a ban has also been proven in many other countries, he added.

The Left has dismissed warnings from the Chamber of Commerce that such a move could lead to redundancies by arguing it was mostly precarious staff that was exploited on Sundays and by pointing to trade union claims business was slow Sundays anyway.

"For many shops Sunday work is sooner an expense than an opportunity for profit. Shops are open because the competition is open too," Mesec has argued.

He also rejected doubts that the motion has unequivocal support among workers, pointing to a survey by the Trade Union of Shop Assistants that showed 98% support.

The support level was 95% when the workers were asked if they were in favour even if not working Sundays meant lower income, the trade union explained today, while also urging higher wages in the sector.

Meanwhile, Chamber of Commerce Mariča Lah told the STA today than in case legislative efforts continued for a ban on Sunday shopping, the Economic and Social Council would definitely need to be included.

She said the politicians had been very clear when expressing their misgivings about the motion, mentioning an expected decrease of revenue in the sector of about 10%, the loss of 12,000 to 13,000 jobs and the danger of a portion of purchasing power flowing over to neighbouring countries where shops are open Sundays.


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