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Poland

19 December 2017

Poland: Sunday trading ban approved in lower house

Polish trade union Solidarność came closer to a long-held desire as the Polish Parliament voted for a ban on Sunday trading. As a consequence, Sunday shopping could be restricted from 2018 onwards. The ban is the result of a campaign that brought together NGOs and workers’ representatives and was backed up by the country’s ruling conservatives and Catholic organisations.

The Sejm, the lower house of the country’s parliament has voted in favour of a restriction on Sunday trading. With 254 votes for and 156 against, the parliament approved the law which will gradually make the Sunday retail trade illegal. The passed law still needs to be approved by Senate and the President. Under the plans, backed by the country’s ruling conservatives, a ban on Sunday trading will be introduced in 2020. As a first step, trading will be banned on two Sundays a month from 1 March 2018. The idea is that this will be enlarged to three Sundays a month in 2019. From 2020 trading will be prohibited on all Sundays although some retail outlets will be exempted. According to the government, the ban will not harm the economy.

The vote is the result of a campaign that started with a citizens’ bill proposing a ban on Sunday shopping by most retail outlets, submitted to the parliament in the autumn of 2016. The draft bill was submitted by a coalition of several groups, including trade union Solidarność. The coalition managed to gather the required signatures for parliament to consider the proposal. Surveys held in the summer of 2017 made clear that the population was divided on a ban, with 50 percent wanting to shop on Sundays and 46 percent arguing the opposite. Several bishops backed up the proposal and asked for a total ban, with the argument that families need time for themselves.

Trade union Solidarność has also campaigned for a complete ban. Suggestions to water down the plans were heavily criticised by the union, for instance, as an organisation representing some of Poland’s retailers suggested that grocery stores across the country should be allowed to keep their doors open every Sunday, while employees could be provided with guarantees of at least two free Sundays a month. According to the union, the proposal tabled by the union and several other organisations in parliament in 2016 had already undergone a far-reaching metamorphosis and the number of exceptions to a ban had since been expanded.

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