STA, 12 May 2020 - The opposition Left has drawn up a legislative motion in a bid to keep stores closed on Sundays even after the end of the coronavirus epidemic. Considering support expressed from both sides of the political isle and part of the public, the party hopes the bill can be passed by summer.
The Left drafted amendments to the trade act in response to a call by the Trade Union of Shop Assistants in its Labour Day message to keep stores closed on Sundays and public holidays beyond the epidemic.
Appearing at today's press conference of the Left, the union's secretary general Ladi Rožič said that hundreds of union members wanted Sundays to be a day off for retail workers as well.
He said it was sad that after almost 17 years since a referendum in which 58% of those who turned out backed a ban on Sunday store opening hours, the voters' will has still not been put into practice.
Several initiatives, legislative motions and changes to collective bargaining agreements followed to appease the workers, however, most recently the trade act was amended in 2008 to the effect that store opening hours are not restricted at all, aside from the general prescription that statutory worker rights and collective agreements be respected.
Echoing Rožič's arguments, Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, said thousands of retail workers worked Sundays, losing out on quality of life because they could not spend their time with their families.
He urged all parties to endorse the bill, welcoming broad support signalled by PM Janez Janša on Twitter, Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj, and most recently by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the largest opposition faction, which warned though that the ban should not serve as an excuse for layoffs.
Mesec also noted support from Christian religious communities and many trade unions and other organisations, arguing that the coronavirus epidemic showed that work and shopping habits were but a social agreement that could be changed and that having stores closed on Sundays did not dent the quality of life in any way.
Under the party's proposal retailers would no longer be allowed to set working time on Sundays and work-free days. An exception would be stores of up to 200 square metres located at service stations, airports, railway and bus stations or hospitals.
The Chamber of Commerce has warned that a ban on Sunday shopping would result in a loss of jobs, but Rožič said the retailers were severely understaffed, having to rely on agency, student and immigrant work forces, so he was not concerned the measure would lead to regular staff being made redundant.
Still, the chamber questioned the timing of the legislative proposal, which it said came "at extremely difficult times" when "all forces, skills and activities should be directed at forming measures to exit the crisis as a priority".
The chamber insists that changes to the opening hours will affect the size of the workforce in a sector that employs more than 110,000 people, almost 60,000 of them in retail alone.