Unions again demand shop hours reduction

Trade unions in the Czech Republic have put forward proposals for legislation to reduce shop opening hours during public holidays. Unions are concerned that shop managers put pressure on employees to work on days that are generally regarded as public or bank holidays, and the problem came to the fore again during the recent Christmas period. Shop owners, however, say many workers are more interested in the bonuses usually paid for working on a public holiday than in taking time off.

Background

There are no legal restrictions on shop opening hours during the Czech Republic’s 12 annual public holiday dates.

Unions say employees in shops, and in chain stores in particular, are often pressurised by their employers into working these bank holidays. Although a bonus is usually paid for working on a public holiday, a survey by the Trade Union of Workers in Commerce (OSPO) suggests most employees would rather stay at home.

Aneta Bednářová, OSPO’s spokesperson, says employees are afraid to refuse to work because they fear losing their jobs. She said:

At any little hesitation or refusal, the superior may dismiss employees. In spite of the fact that trade unions try to improve industrial relations in the long run, fear usually makes an employee accept a shift, without having a choice. This complicated situation of shop employees is not usually perceived by customers who enjoy the holidays by going shopping with their family.

OSPO pushes for new law

OSPO has been trying to reduce shop opening hours for several years without success. As early as 2004, the union was pushing for the adoption of laws governing the opening hours of shops during public holidays, and made the same demands again in 2010 (CZ0911019I, CZ1109059Q).

Now, however, the union says a new law should apply to both retail and wholesale operations. It has put forward that shops should close on at least seven of the 12 public holidays, with an emphasis on workers being allowed to remain at home at Easter and Christmas.

OSPO also proposes that shops should close at 14.00 on Christmas Eve – currently employers can insist on workers staying until 15.00. OSPO argues that an employee, especially one who has to commute to work, does not have the chance to enjoy a stress-free Christmas Eve.

The new law would not apply to petrol stations and pharmacies, or to shops at airports, railway stations and in healthcare facilities.

Businesses fight the proposals

Business owners do not support the trade union’s proposals, and argue that their employees would rather have better paid holiday shifts than take a holiday.

Gabriela Bechynská, a spokesperson for Billa supermarkets, said:

In our opinion, the proposals would be to our customers’ detriment, damage the economy and result in a loss for some of our employees who seek work on those day in order to receive extra bonuses and special incentive bonuses.

Some of the large shops, however, have listened to employees’ demands. This past Christmas some did reduce opening hours during the holidays. Some shopping centres even closed over this Christmas holidays.

The new bill is due to be discussed soon by the parliament of the Czech Republic.

Soňa Veverková, RILSA

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