Poland Considers Limiting Shopping on Sundays After Union Push

  • Employers warn the restriction may eliminate 100,000 jobs
  • PM aide Kowalczyk sees chance for ruling party draft support

Poland’s largest trade union submitted a draft bill to parliament restrict retail trade on Sundays, rejecting warnings from employers’ groups that such regulation would eliminate a quarter of the 400,000 jobs at shopping centers across the country.

The Solidarnosc union collected more than half a million signatures, or five times more than required to submit a bill to parliament, for a draft law that would force shopping centers and supermarkets to shut on Sundays, while allowing retail stores at gas stations, train and bus stops, airports, hospitals and schools to remain open.

Parliamentary work on the legislation will probably begin next month, according to the union, which backed the winning campaign of the Law & Justice party in last year’s parliamentary election. Poland’s unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest since the introduction of free-market reforms in 1990, fueled by 3 percent economic growth and rising wages. That makes it the best time to introduce a limit on shopping hours, the trade union said.

"Poland’s jobs market is in a really great shape,” Marek Lewandowski, a spokesman for Solidarnosc, said by phone. “One shouldn’t believe in those alarming voices saying this will lead to job cuts and losses. They have been proved completely false.”

Jobless Rate

In April, Hungarian lawmakers scrapped a Sunday-shopping ban implemented by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s administration last year, following opinion polls showing more than two-thirds of the nation opposed the ban. Henryk Kowalczyk, an adviser to Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, sees a “significant” chance that the ruling party’s lawmakers will support the trade union’s initiative, he said in an interview with Radio Plus on Friday.

Almost a decade ago, Poland banned shopping on 13 holidays, which lead to about 40,000 losing their jobs, according to estimates by Klub Jagiellonski, a think tank lobbying for employers’ groups. Polish shopping centers now employ the fourth-largest number of workers in the European union after those in the U.K., Germany and France, meaning that the proposed restrictions would eliminate almost 100,000 jobs, Klub Jagiellonski said.

Poland’s jobless rate declined to 8.6 percent in July, while wages grew 4.8 percent in July from a year earlier.