Polish ruling coalition party submits bill to roll back Sunday trading ban

One of the parties in Poland’s ruling coalition has presented a bill that would loosen the country’s Sunday trading ban. Shops would be allowed to open on two Sundays each month, with staff receiving double pay on those days and an extra day off work in return.

The ban was introduced in 2018 under the former national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government following a campaign in favour of it by the Solidarity trade union and Catholic church.

Restoring Sunday trading at least partially was one of the election promises of the centrist Poland 2050 (Polska 2050), which is part of a new ruling coalition that replaced PiS in power in December. The main ruling group, Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO), has also pledged to end the trading ban.

However, PiS, now in opposition, and the Solidarity trade union have expressed opposition to any such move. Another member of Tusk’s ruling coalition, The Left (Lewica), is also sceptical of the idea.

Dziś jako @PL_2050 złożyliśmy projekt ustawy przywracającej handel w dwie niedziele (pierwszą i trzecią) w miesiącu.

Ułatwi ona życie klientom, zwiekszy aktywność gospodarczą, jednocześnie zadba o pracowników. pic.twitter.com/TwBmaUne0I

— Ryszard Petru (@RyszardPetru) March 21, 2024

One of Poland 2050’s MPs, Ryszard Petru, says that his party’s new proposal represents a “compromise between full trade liberalisation and the current ban”.

Whereas currently most shops are only allowed to open on seven Sundays a year, the proposed law would allow them to trade on the first and third Sunday of every month.

In return, retail workers would receive double pay on those days and employers would be additionally obliged to grant an employee working on Sunday one day off within six days before or six days after the working Sunday.

Petru cited estimates that the liberalisation of Sunday trading would result in a 4% increase in turnover for the retail sector while employment could rise by 40,000. He said that Poland 2050 “will urge all coalition partners to support this project”.

Since Poland’s Sunday trading ban was introduced, 6,500 shops have closed – most of them the small and local businesses that were meant to benefit from the change

The growth of e-commerce may also hit them hard, writes Mateusz Perowicz of @KlubJagiellonsk https://t.co/xIpDpLXXpk

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 13, 2021

One of those partners, KO, before last year’s elections listed ending the Sunday trading ban as one of the 100 policies it aimed to introduce within 100 days of taking office (but most of which it has failed to implement).

However, their other coalition partner, The Left, is not keen on the idea. One of its leading figures, family, labour and social policy minister Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk, noted today in response to Poland 2050’s proposal that Poles already work among the longest hours in Europe.

“We lack time to rest, and the traditional day to rest and spend time with family is Sunday,” said Dziemianowicz-Bąk, quoted by the Polish Press Agency (PAP). “Hence the deep scepticism towards any proposals to introduce working Sundays.”

Poles work the second-longest hours in the EU, new @EU_Eurostat data show.

In 2022, they worked on average 40.4 hours a week compared to the EU-wide figure of 37.5 hours and behind only Greece (41 hours) https://t.co/dXTDGdg0O3

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 22, 2023

PiS politician Daniel Milewski, welcomed the fact that a number of figures from The Left have voiced opposition to ending the Sunday trading ban.

“When we introduced [it]…we were made out to be religious fundamentalists,” Milewski told TV Republika. “But it was about families [not church].”

Meanwhile Alfred Bujara, head of the retail workers’ section of the Solidarity trade union, condemned Poland 2050’s proposal, telling Tydognik Solidarności that “restoring Sunday trading would be a huge blow” to Poland’s two million retail workers, 72% of whom are women.

“I talk to these women. They can’t imagine having to work on Sunday. They also don’t believe in [promises] of any allowances or bonuses [for working on Sunday], because employers are very rapacious on this issue,” he added.

Sunday „is for family and prayer, not for spending time in the store”, says Poland’s labour minister, who wants to meet with retailers to remind them about complying with the ban on Sunday trading https://t.co/1pxpjexkNT

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) August 25, 2022

Earlier this week, before the draft law was presented, the deputy head of the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ), Sebastian Koćwin, also argued that the trade ban was supported by industry workers.

Trade is Poland’s largest employment sector. According to data from Statistics Poland (GUS), a state agency, in 2020 between 1.5 and 2 million people worked in trade, or around 4.6% of all employees.

According to polling by UCE Research for the Rzeczpospolita daily, the public has become more accepting of the trade ban. Last month, only 44% wanted to restore Sunday trading, down from 54% in September.

The Supreme Court overturned acquittals by lower courts of businesses that used various tricks to circumvent Poland’s Sunday trading ban

Some had offered sports equipment rental and another opened an in-store „library” to justify remaining open on Sundays https://t.co/7b9yRyYT3f

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 27, 2023

Main image credit: cottonbro studio / Pexels 

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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