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Greece

Why Greeks are right to protest Sunday opening

Today Greece is seeing further nationwide protests by shop employees and campaigners against Sunday shop opening imposed by the Government under the terms of the Troika’s hated memorandum of understanding.

The idea is that it will boost competitiveness and spur consumer spending in the recession-hit economy.

But according to the latest statistics of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, from November 2013 to May 2014 during which a pilot scheme was run, neither the turnover of the stores increased, nor the volume of the sales.

The majority of the shop owners noticed rise in their operational costs and decrease in the demand, creating more problems in the sustainability of their enterprises, the figures showed.

This Sunday opening policy is one of the many ‘supply-side’ solutions pushed by the IMF-ECB-EU that make up the Troika. But the real problem in Greece, now in its sixth year of recession, is a lack of demand that has been destroyed by public spending, wage and pension cuts.

As economist and mayoral candidate for the radical left Syriza party Gabriel Sakellaridis says, “What is missing from the citizens is not the time for shopping, but money.”

For General Secretary of the Union of Private Sector Employees of Greece, Thanos Vasilopoulos,  while Sunday opening was not guaranteed to boost turnover, it would like lead to further worsening of working conditions at a time when many retail employees have not been paid for as long as 15 months.

Like other ‘liberalisation’ measures it looks like the extension of shopping hours is a great opportunity to benefit big business, with the National Confederation of Greek Commerce arguing will only benefit shopping malls and commercial chains.

Since the austerity-cum-privatisation fest kicked off in Greece more than four years ago not only workers but small businesses have been smashed.

A new study by the Small Enterprises’ Institute of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants finds that one in two businesses employing up to 49 people are in danger of closing in the coming months, with turnover falling by 81.7 percent among very small businesses in the first half of 2013, and down 65% compared to five years ago. Some 200,000 businesses have now folded during the crisis with another 27,000 to 30,000 forecast to close this year.

This Sunday’s strike has been called by the Federation of Private Employees and follows a series of protests against the regulation measures since they were introduced last November.

The proposals originally foresaw seven “Sundays with open stores” throughout the year, during the Christmas and Easter holidays and sales periods up from two which was the norm for decades in Greece. But according to the new law, stores will remain open every Sunday of the year in 10 regions, in the historic centers of Athens and Thessaloniki, in many touristic islands like Rhodes, Kos, Syros, Mykonos and Santorini, the peninsula of Chalkidiki in northern Greece and the suburbs of Attica, Pikermi and Rafina.

Greece is not the only country in Europe where Sunday opening is being pushed against the will of employees, their unions and without any apparent benefit to anyone apart from large corporations. Find out about the campaign in France  

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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