The Czech Republic is a step closer to seeing major stores close during a number of state holidays, among them Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s and Easter. A Senate bill sanctioning the restrictions was approved in a first reading in the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday.
If passed into law, the proposal currently in the lower house could significantly affect retailers during major holidays, and not just Christmas or Easter. As written, other state holidays which would see stores of more than 200 square metres remain closed include May 8 (marking the end of WWII in Europe), September 28 (the day of Czech statehood), October 28 (the founding of Czechoslovakia).
One of the ideas behind the bill is to allow employees who would otherwise spend the day at work a chance to be with family members rather than attending to customers at the mall or serving at the cash register. For some, such as the Christian Democrats, the meaning of some holidays is lost or not fully appreciated if they are not protected by forcing large shops to close. Social Democrat MP Frantíšek Bublan, a former minister of the interior, stated that at stake were only seven or so days, so that the economic impact presented by the right-wing opposition would not be great. Trade unions have been pushing for the move for several years.
Opponents, namely the centre-right opposition, charge that the proposal discriminates against large stores and is likely to cost jobs. As for the meaning of the holidays, the head of the Civic Democrats’ Deputies’ club, Zbyněk Stanjura said that was up to parents and not the Senate to teach. He also questioned the cut-off of 200 square metres – why not 300? Or 150?
In the long-run, the centre-right opposition does not have enough mandates to prevent the legislation from passing. Before a second reading, the amendment will be considered by the economic and social committees of the Chamber of Deputies.