Sunday shopping ban gaining traction with Polish government

Sunday shopping ban gaining traction with Polish government
Poland's large retailers have had a rough ride since PiS took power
By bne IntelliNews September 6, 2016

The Polish government does not foresee any threat to the economy from a ban on retailing on Sundays, the deputy prime minister told a business conference on September 6.

The statement from Mateusz Morawiecki suggests the proposal has support amongst high level officials. Retailers insist that industry and the economy - which is hugely dependent on consumption for the meantime - could be hit hard should they be forced to close their doors on the Sabbath.

Polish trade union Solidarity submitted 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 looks to be another painful hit to the large, mostly foreign-owned, retail chains in Poland.

However, deputy Prime Minister Morawiecki suggests the draft has significant support at senior level. "It will have no negative impact on the economy. We are among an EU minority that has no such limitations. In this case, we want to join the countries that promote family life as a social value,“ he said, according to PAP.

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. Fidesz, however, suffered a humiliation in April when it was forced to retract the ban, which has proved highly unpopular with voters since it was introduced in December 2014.

Solidarity has long advocated the introduction of a ban on the opening of shops on Sunday, insisting it is in the interest of employees. Retailers, on the other hand, claim shutting their stores on the Sabbath would cause thousands of jobs to disappear. The powerful Catholic Church has also long said Sunday shopping runs counter to traditional values.

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 would also be allowed on seven selected Sundays each year, for example ahead of Christmas or Easter.