Cabinet on Wednesday renewed a decree allowing shops to stay open until late seven days, despite protest by small shopkeepers who say the new regime is driving them out of business.
Under the new decree, in force until August 31, hours and regulations will not change except for the free Famagusta area, where Sunday shop hours will be from 7am to 11pm following suggestions by mayors and other local factors.
The change was decided taking into consideration increased tourism in the area and the fact that shops stay open for only a few months during the year.
In all other areas shops will stay open from 5am until 10pm or 11pm (depending on each town) from Monday to Saturday (including Wednesdays) and from 10.30 am until 7.30pm on Sundays.
Previously, the decree that was first issued in July 2013 by Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, allowed for shops to stay open from 5am until 11pm from Monday to Saturday (including Wednesdays) and from 9am until 11pm on Sundays.
Before July 2013, extended shop opening hours applied only to shops in tourist areas.
Small shopkeepers and employees protested on May 22 against the renewal of the decree extending shop hours by hanging black banners outside their shops.
The small shopkeepers association POVEK and trade union confederation PEO said the decree hurts small shops, leads to exploitation of employees and violation of the minimum wage.
They said that so far 170 kiosks and 120 bakeries and hundreds of clothing shops have closed down since the decree was issued.
Unemployment has climbed to 17.4% with 78,000 out of jobs while the decree has also greatly damaged social and family life as it forces employees to work on Sundays and until late during weekdays, they said.
The government counters this argument saying that hundreds of jobs have been created and consumers have reacted positively to the change.
And larger shops also went on record saying they wanted the right to serve customers for longer.
Speaking to the press, Executive Director of the Cyprus Association of Hypermarkets, Andreas Hadjiadamou said the small business’s protests were an obstacle to progress.