Bill on Sunday shopping ban to be submitted to Polish parliament

By bne IntelliNews September 2, 2016

Polish trade union Solidarity says it plans to submit a draft bill to ban most retailers from operating on Sundays to parliament on September 2.

Following the tax on retail turnover that took effect on September 1, the bill is another potential hit to the large, mostly foreign-owned, retail chains in Poland. Both the retail tax and the Sunday shopping ban are borrowed from Hungary's populist Fidesz government, which has been the source of no little inspiration for the ruling Law & Justice Party (PiS) since it took office in Warsaw in November.

At the same time, Solidarity has long advocated the introduction of a ban on the opening of shops on Sunday, in the interests of employees. Retailers claim shutting their stores on the Sabbath would cause thousands of jobs to disappear. Solidarity, however, claims there is significant popular support for the bill, and that it has gathered some 350,000 signatures in the staunchly Catholic country.

Solidarity can also count on support from the government, which has hinted it could consider a ban during its successful campaign ahead of the elections in October. The powerful Catholic Church has also long said Sunday shopping runs counter to traditional values.

"Hypermarket employees are poorly paid, over-worked, and their family life suffers as a result. In Poland, capitalism and consumerism have gotten out of control,“ Solidarity’s Alfred Bujara told AFP.

Solidarity does not seek a blanket ban. Under the union's proposal, as elsewhere in the region, it is large retail chains that would mostly be targeted. Smaller shops, as well as petrol stations and outlets in railway stations and airports, would be exempt from the ban, according to the text. Trade will also be allowed on seven selected Sundays each year, for example ahead of Christmas or Easter.

Solidarity insists a Sunday shopping limit would not hurt retail spending, a major pillar of Polish growth for the meantime, but boost it by encouraging consumers to stock up. On top of that the trade union suggests services will benefit as well.

Hungary implemented a ban on large stores opening on Sunday's in December 2014. However, the move was hugely unpopular around the country, and Fidesz suffered a rare humiliation in April when it was forced to retract the legislation. Budapest also saw the EU strike down its retail tax on competition grounds.

 

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