Some 200 kiosks and 110 bakeries have closed down since the Labour Ministry issued a decree extending shop opening hours, while about 1,000 in the retail trade remained out of jobs in the last eight months, said Povek General Secretary Stefanos Koursaris.
He was speaking after a meeting with Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, regarding the renewal of the decree which expires on Friday.
The decree was first issued in July 2013, and allows for shops to stay open from 5am until 11pm from Monday to Saturday (including Wednesdays) and from 9am until 11pm on Sundays.
Previously only shops in tourist areas were allowed to stay open for longer at weekends.
At the meeting, Small Shopkeepers’ union Povek General Secretary Stefanos Koursaris urged the minister to postpone the renewal of the decree by two months in order to find a better solution regarding the issue and also help restore healthy competition in retail trade.
The Labour Minister however said that she would not accept any proposal that involves shops staying closed on Sundays as this entails many people losing their jobs.
Emilianidou said that all proposals will be taken into account in order to implement a policy that will help put the unemployed back to work and also boost the economy.
Koursaris said that the decree is damaging small businesses and has led to an increase in unemployment in the retail sector, from 9,300 to 10,300.
He said that however, following the meeting it seemed that the minister will renew the decree despite strong disagreement from shopkeepers.
“This is the fourth time that the minister decides to make the whole of Cyprus a tourist area,” said Koursaris.
Proposals submitted at the meeting included the creation of legislation for shop opening hours to cover the whole of Cyprus and the classification of shops in two categories, special shops and general shops.
General shops will be able to sell any products and services they want but will have fixed opening hours. Special shops such as kiosks and bakeries will have their own opening hours, however, they will have limitations on what they can sell.
According to a Povek study, 30% of shops in main streets have closed down, while 80% of shops in towns and 90% in communities do not implement the decree on longer hours.