THE QUESTION of whether to allow hypermarkets to open on Sundays and public holidays, extend their opening hours, and the possibility of local municipal authorities deciding the issue for themselves was debated in parliament last week.
The discussions centre on three legal proposals: one by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), one by the Bloco de Esquerda (BE) and another by the PSD party.
Distribution companies are calling for a total liberalisation in commercial opening hours for hypermarkets and have organised a petition to press the government for Sunday opening.
The PCP party is calling for all such retail establishments to be closed and service provision to be prohibited by law on Sundays and holidays.
The BE wants large supermarkets to be closed on Sundays and public holidays while the PSD has admitted the possibility of allowing hypermarkets to open on Sunday afternoons and public holidays, leaving the last word to individual local câmaras.
The ruling PS party is examining a greater liberalisation of opening hours according to PS parliamentary deputy David Martins.
But the Catholic Workers League (LOC) and the Bishop of the Armed Forces are very strongly against Sunday openings, stating that Sundays should be devoted to quality family time.
“Staff working at large hypermarkets have families too,” says Fátima Almeida of the LOC, claiming that working on Sundays, shift work and insecure labour contracts (flexi-security) were all contributing to undermining the status and stability of the family unit.
Hypermarkets and other large food outlets should only be allowed to open in places where traditional options are unable to satisfy “basic necessities”, she said.
Another group that is worried about the expansion of hypermarkets and liberalisation of opening times and days are local markets and small green grocers who claim that they are being put out of business.
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