Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou defended the current working hour framework, allowing businesses to stay open on Sunday after MPs challenged it as unconstitutional.
In comments to state radio CyBC, Panayiotou said the “disturbance caused by parliament, unnecessary,” arguing that the current system introduced in 2013 has benefitted consumers and employees.
The issue resurfaced earlier this week when AKEL MPs tabled the matter for discussion, pointing to legal loopholes in the legislation.
It will be discussed at the House Labour Committee in January, following the Christmas holiday break.
Panayiotou defended the existing extended hours for shops, recording the benefits that have arisen for the economy and retail trade in the last 10 years.
The minister pointed out that in 2013, the number of workers employed in the retail sector was 420,000; today, this number has risen to 550,000.
The minister said unemployment decreased from 46,000 in 2013 to 12,500 today.
He further stressed the significance of having fixed rules for the market and that any changes would harm the growth trend recorded in recent years.
He argued that any legal loopholes that arise do not impact the operational framework of shops.
“Changing working hours was not included in our pre-election program, nor do we have plans to change it”.
Panayiotou added that the opening hours framework was expanded with a ministerial decree by late Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou in 2013 and became cemented in consumer shopping habits.
“Changing this would only work against the market,” he argued.
Marios Antoniou, the spokesperson for the Cyprus Retailers Association, told Alpha TV that the issue had been settled with a 2015 Supreme Court decision that “clearly stated the regulation of working hours was the task of the executive power, which is the government.
“No problems were created (by the 2013 decree), and the benefits of extended hours and Sunday shopping are visible to everyone.
“Back in 2013, some circles were warning that the decision would lead to unemployment taking off, which never happened,” said Antoniou.
Andreas Kafkalias, AKEL MP and head of the House’s Labour Committee, said the issue was revisited as legal gaps emerged.
“That’s not the only reason.
“Unfortunately for the government, society says there is an issue, and this needs to be addressed,” said the AKEL MP.