Trade unions push for limited opening hours at Christmas

In October 2009, trade unions in the Czech Republic appealed to chain stores to limit opening hours of their shops during Christmas this year. For example, they called on shops to remain open on Christmas Eve until 14.00 at the latest. In 2008, some hypermarkets closed on Christmas Eve only several hours later, mostly between 16.00 and 17.00. According to the unions, shops should remain closed on 25 December and should not reopen sooner than 26 December 2009.

Previous attempt to reduce shop opening times

In the Czech Republic, opening hours in shops are by no means limited. Although law-makers from the Czech Social Democratic Party (Česká strana sociálně demokratická, ČSSD) and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (Komunistická strana Čech a Moravy, KSČM) made an attempt in 2005 to ban opening hours at night in supermarkets and on public holidays, they did not get sufficient support for their proposal. At that time, chain store operators objected to the proposal claiming that they would lose customers due to the banning of sales on public holidays and at night time. They warned that, as a result, they would have to dismiss some of their staff.

Union appeal for reduced hours over Christmas

‘With regard to the start of Christmas shopping in mid September and early October, all citizens have sufficient time to do their shopping. Christmas Eve is a public holiday, so we believe that everybody can buy forgotten items in the course of the morning of 24 December’, argued Jiří Šafář from the Trade Union of Workers in Commerce (Odborový svaz pracovníků obchodu, OSPO), affiliated to the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (Českomoravská konfederace odborových svazů, ČMKOS). According to Mr Šafář, the union appeal has been supported by the OSPO company committee of the supermarket chain Tesco Stores ČR. He argues that, for supermarket and hypermarket staff, long opening hours on Christmas Eve make their transport back home and preparation for the festive evening difficult. Furthermore, he pointed out that in neighbouring countries large shops close on Christmas Eve.

Some stores agree to shorten opening hours

Following a renewed strike threat by the trade union represented at Tesco Stores ČR, the company accepted the union appeal for an earlier closure on Christmas eve as it did not want to have reduced staff numbers working in Tesco stores during the pre-Christmas period. ‘The employer’s attitude (at the shortening of opening hours on Christmas Eve) will certainly have an impact on further steps during our next negotiations, which have been launched in relation to the strikes alert,’ stated the Chair of the trade union at Tesco, Ivan Předinský, without providing any further details. This means Tesco Stores will close their shops at 14.00 on Christmas Eve this year.

Opening hours of Albert supermarkets and hypermarkets will also finish at 14.00 and shops will remain closed on 25 December as well as 26 December. Nevertheless, some Albert hypermarkets will be open on Christmas Eve until 16.00 and are expected to reopen on 26 December.

No change in opening times at other stores

However, opening hours during Christmas time will not be changed, despite the trade unions’ appeal, for example in Globus ČR hypermarkets, which will be opened on Christmas Eve until 14.00 or 15.00 like last year. They will remain closed only on 25 December and their doors will reopen on the following day again. ‘People want to do shopping on these days too,’ argued the Managing Director of Globus ČR, Petr Vyhnálek, according to whom trade union leaders requested that shops remain closed also on 26 December.

Soňa Veverková, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs (RILSA)

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