ATHENS – Greek worker unions are continuing to protest an edict which allows Sunday store openings in key areas of the country’s capital city and its second-largest Thessaloniki, as well as some islands, saying it favors chain stories and hurts small retailers.
Angry demonstrators gathered on Sunday, July 13 in the open areas to mark the first day that a new law, allowing stores in 10 parts of the country to open on the last day of the week, was being implemented.
Store employees went on strike and protesters jeered shoppers or clapped them sarcastically as they exited shops in Greece’s biggest cities.
The new law allows stores to open stores to open every Sunday in the centers of Athens and Thessaloniki, on Rhodes, Kos, Syros, Myconos and Santorini, in Halkidiki and some suburbs of Attica.
The government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who is keen on bringing in more cash to help offset a lingering economic crisis, gave the okay to a pilot scheme allowing retail stores in the approved areas but that created a split among shop owners, some of whom want the extra business and others who don’t want to open.
The openings coincided with the beginning of a summer sales period, but many shops on popular tourist islands have been open on Sundays to take advantage of flocks of visitors.
According to a law passed last year, all stores are allowed to open on the first Sunday of each of the year’s four sales periods but that will now be year round for the affected areas.
The Federation of Private Employees, OIYE, which represents retail workers, called a 24-hour strike for July 13 in the commerce sector as well as a protest rally on Ermou Street in central Athens, the capital’s main commercial district.
But many shops, eager to bring in business, jumped at the chance to lure customers and opened, while others said they were fearful that if they didn’t open they would lose business.
The federation has said that allowing all stores to open every Sunday will not help tourism, as the government argues, but will simply boost chain stores and multi-nationals operating in Greece. It didn’t explain why people wouldn’t go into smaller stores.
OIYE has reacted similarly on other Sundays that stores have been allowed to open according to the 2013 law, but failed to get much support, but this is the first time it sought a common front with small traders.
According to the ministerial decision, the parts of Greece where stores can open every Sunday are the city centers of Athens and Thessaloniki, the towns of Pikermi and Rafina in Eastern Attica, the Halkidiki peninsula in central Macedonia, and on the Aegean islands of Rhodes, Kos, Syros, Myconos and Santorini.