The Slovenia Times

MPs send Sunday shop closure bill into third reading


The exceptions to Sunday shop closure would include shops smaller than 200 square metres located at petrol stations, coach and train stations, airports, hospitals, sea ports and border crossings, as well as shops smaller than 200 square metres run as a smaller family business or by sole proprietors.

The bill received bipartisan support already at May's first reading, but continues to be opposed by the government, the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), the opposition National Party (SNS) and the Chamber of Commerce (TZS), while the MPs of the ruling Democrats (SDS) largely abstained from the debate.

The advocates pointed in today's debate to the 2003 referendum in which voters opted for Sunday shop closure and to the retail workers' right to Sunday rest.

The opponents meanwhile argued in favour of free business initiative, questioned the new legislation's constitutionality, and warned there would be layoffs.

MP Luka Mesec of the Left said the people's will from 2003 had not changed, arguing a 2018 opinion poll showed 87% of the respondents supported Sunday shop closure.

Having shops open on Sunday is in contradiction with the people's will and the will of retail workers, who complain about burnout and retire early due to disability, he said.

Mesec also believes the bill is in line with the constitution, giving workers a work-free day at the same allowing business people to work on Sunday if they wish so.

Robert Polnar of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said the changes to the trade act should be passed "because they represent a form of a civilisational intervention in a business sector which is thoroughly contaminated with shameless greed and absurd ill-treatment of people".

The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) supported the bill, with Edvard Paulič arguing layoffs could well be avoided because retail is a very lucrative business and there is a lot of overtime as well as agency workers and students helping in.

The SMC fears the new legislation is not in line with the constitution, with Dušan Verbič highlighting free business initiative and unfair competition. He also pointed to equality before law when some shops will be allowed to open on Sundays and others not.

He wondered why the proponents of the bill advocated Sunday rest for retail workers but not also for others in the services sector, such as hospitality workers. Verbič believes opening hours should be a matter for social partners to agree on.

The SMC's amendments to allow all shops to be open up to ten Sundays a year and those smaller than 200 square metres without restrictions was voted down, alongside a proposal for the bill to take effect as late as 1 January 2021.

The coalition New Slovenia (NSi) believes the bill brings good solutions, but Jožef Horvat regretted the Social and Economic Council had not reached agreement on it.

Zmago Jelinčič of the SNS, which supports the government, criticised the advocates of the bill for trying to "undermine the state".

He said less money would flow into the state budget and many workers would lose jobs, adding that "shop assistants are happy to work Sundays because they earn more".

Dejan Židan, an MP for the opposition SocDems, said this was one of few bills which prioritised people, and also urged introducing a six-hour working day.

Marko Bandelli of the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), saying he would vote yes, urged raising wages for Sunday work so that those who wanted to work, could work.

The bill will now be debated at the next parliamentary session. The next regular session is due in September after a summer break.

Most of the shops remain closed even after the Covid-19 epidemic formally ended on 31 May, as a number of restrictions remain in place due to the coronavirus.


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