[WATCH] Legal reform allows all retail shops to open on Sundays
The government has launched a reform of retail sector regulations, allowing retailers of open on Sundays
10 January 2017, 10:18am
Last updated on 10 January 2017, 7:45pm
Extended weekend opening hours for shops: what do small retailers think?
In a joint press conference, ministers Chris Cardona and Helena Dalli argued that the reform was necessary to better reflect today's realities. It also streamlined the current list of exemptions, which has created a certain degree of "discrimination" against retailers operating in certain parts of the island.
"In many cases, Sunday is a more convenient day for people to shop. This reform will lead to new opportunities for business owners, employees and consumers alike," Cardona said.
The reform will allow grocers, supermarkets and other shops selling essential goods to open on Sundays, between 6am and 1pm, even in non-touristic areas.
Prior to the reform, only grocers in touristic areas were allowed to operate during these times.
As things stand, whenever a cruise liner docks in Valletta, the locality’s shops are allowed to open. Yet, the same did not apply to shops in localities close to the port. The reform will be extending this right to shops in the Three Cities.
The newly launched reform - effective immediately - will allow all shops to extend their opening hours to 10pm between Friday and Sunday, as well as operate on public holidays, with the exception of Good Friday.
"Society sometimes moves ahead of regulations and in this case this is what happened. People's lives have changed and now require them to shop on Sunday," Dalli said.
She said that while the reform would give retailers the opportunity to open for longer hours, it would also allow employees to refuse to do so – as long as there was no mention of working on Sunday in their contract.
The two ministers said that the reform is being announced following extensive consultation with stakeholders and social partners.
A quick chat with small shop owners in Hamrun saw many argue that they already worked round the clock with the current opening hours, and had no intention of opening on Sunday – albeit knowing that competitors might do so.
Recognising the overall positive effect the changes might have, one shop owner insisted that he was comfortable with the present system, “and I don’t see us changing”.
Another retailer said that he did not plan on extending opening hours at the weekend or public holidays and warned that there could be a negative side to the changes.
“It could impact me badly, especially if my competitors decide to stay open longer but I still do not intend to stay open longer than I currently do,” he said.
In welcoming the “long-overdue” reform, GRTU president Paul Abela said that a survey of the chamber's members found that over 70% were in favour.
In addition to this, he stressed that there would be no changes in the employment conditions for those working on Sunday.
Minister clarifies applicability of Sunday opening fee
Replying to questions in parliament following a ministerial statement on the new regulations, Minister for the Economy Chris Cardona pointed out that the €698 fee that shops and outlets currently paid to open on Sunday would remain in place in the case of shops that opened seven days a week.
The fee will, however, now be waived in the case of outlets that choose to open on Sunday but remain closed on another day of the week.
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