Agreement introduces new shop opening hours

After a dispute lasting several months and fraught negotiations, an agreement has recently been concluded on the introduction of new shop opening hours in Greece.

On 13 January 1997, an agreement was signed on the introduction of new shop opening hours. Since 1990 shops have been allowed to open on a 24-hours a day basis in the wake of legislation to deregulate shop opening hours (article 42, Law 1892/1990) in line with the then Conservative Government's policies on liberalisation. In late 1996, a number of businesses - members of the employers' organisation, SELPE- proceeded to introduce later working hours on Saturdays in Athens and its outer suburbs. In parallel, they took joint action with other bodies (including the Athens municipal authority and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry) to try to introduce Sunday shop opening. In response, the unions announced that they would fight this initiative and that they would demand amendments to Law 1892/1990.

Following months of dispute and numerous rallies between November 1996 and February 1997, the Confederation of Greek Private Employees (OIYE) obtained an agreement on new shop opening hours. The agreement was signed on the employers' side by the three most representative commercial associations in Greece, ESEE, SESME and SELPE. According to the executive committee of OIYE, the agreement is of great importance because this was the first time in 25 years that there had been effective negotiations between the parties. Negotiations however were difficult: ESEE demanded that shops be allowed to open until 17.00 on Saturdays; SESME until 21.00; and SELPE until 21.00 from Mondays to Saturdays. Meanwhile the union's central aim was to fix standard shop-opening hours restricting opening until 15.30 on Saturdays. A compromise was finally reached in which both sides have had to make concessions. The deal which will apply throughout Greece provides for the following:

  • shop opening times will be left to the discretion of each proprietor;
  • shops will be allowed to open until 20.00 from Mondays to Fridays in winter time and until 21.00 in summer time;
  • shops will be allowed to open until 18.00 on Saturdays;
  • local collective agreements are permissible but they may not extend opening hours beyond those contained in the framework above; and
  • on Sundays shops will remain closed except in the case of purely tourist businesses.

The agreement was enacted into law through Decision 1162 of the Ministries of National Economy, Labour and Development (FEK 200/B'/17 March 1997 - FEK is the Greek Official Gazette in which legislation is published.)

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