Shopkeepers to protest plan to extend shopping hours

By Athena Karsera

SHOPS across the island will shut down early on Friday, with shopkeepers congregating outside the House in protest against a proposal for the extension of shop hours to 10pm, six days a week.

The Cyprus Federation of Professional Shopkeepers, Povek, announced the early closing yesterday, saying that stores would close at 1pm with shopkeeper representatives from all towns assembling outside the House at 3pm.

Speaking to reporters, Povek secretary-general Melios Georgiou said yesterday they had chosen to act on Friday because the House Labour Committee would be convening in the morning to discuss the proposal, while it was later set to appear before the Plenum.

“We don’t know what will be decided, so we are forced to take measures,” he said.

In a letter sent to House president Spyros Kyprianou on Monday and made public yesterday, Povek voiced its concern over the proposal first brought before the Labour Committee by deputies Nicos Pittocopitis and Elias Mirianthous.

The letter said that “all branches of retail trade” feared that, if the proposal was passed into law, it would have serious consequences “on thousands of employees and shop-keepers outside the tourist areas.”

Shops in tourist areas already have the choice to remain open until 10pm and so would not be affected by the proposed change. Georgiou added that while shop-keepers in the tourist areas supported Povek’s opinion for the need for separate timetables, they would not be closing early on Friday.

Povek’s letter added that late closing would “cause family and social problems to shop workers and especially smaller shop-owners.”

The letter said that while shopkeepers would still have the choice to remain open or close earlier, competition would force them to adopt later hours. Owners of smaller shops may themselves be forced to remain at their shops until 10pm if they could not afford to hire extra staff.

Povek claimed that operational costs and unemployment would rise with “the queue of unemployed people becoming longer, fed by former self-employed businessmen and their employees.”

The shopkeepers also argued that longer opening hours would spark “illegitimate competition between large supermarkets and smaller stores,” to the clear detriment of the latter.

Povek said the current time-table “completely serves the majority of consumers” and noted that most of the work-force, “civil-servants, semi- government organisation employees and construction workers,” finish work before the shops close.