Union narrowly agrees to year-round Sunday trading
Changing opening hours still requires legislative change
The Representative Assembly of the Service Union United (PAM) has narrowly agreed to a proposal that would allow all shops to remain open on Sundays year round.
Currently larger stores are allowed to remain open on Sundays in the summer months, and in the weeks leading to the Christmas shopping season.
The proposal to relax rules on store opening hours was sharply criticised by many of the union’s representatives at Thursday’s meeting.
The union held its meeting after PAM leaders and representatives of the Federation of Finnish Commerce had ironed out an understanding on Thursday morning on how employees should be compensated for the expanded opening hours.
A final decision on changing current rules on store opening hours is with the government and Parliament, who could decide on the matter even without the agreement of the two labour market organisations.
Nevertheless, Minister of Labour Tarja Cronberg (Green) wanted to hear their views.
During Parliamentary question time on Thursday, Cronberg did not promise any rapid change in opening hours.
“So far this is just a proposal, and I want to emphasise that this is not a government proposal. The aim is to reach an understanding specifically within the government”, Cronberg said.
PAM chairwoman Ann Selin says that the decision to agree to more flexible store hours was a very difficult one, but she said that she expects the national government to bring forward a proposal supporting freer opening hours to Parliament in any case. Therefore, by agreeing to certain conditions, the union was securing its right to be heard, and was able to negotiate on compensation.
Selin says that the most difficult item for the employers to accept was a clause under which employees had to consent to working on Sundays, that for well-founded family reasons, an employee would continue to have the right to take Sunday off, if the employee informs the employer that he or she needs a Sunday off before the shift list is drawn up.
Selin also felt that it was important that employees be guaranteed the right to 22 Sundays and 17 weekends off in a year.
PAM deputy chairman Anssi Vuorio felt that one significant part of the agreement was that as evening work increases, the assessment of safety hazards at the workplace level should become mandatory once a year.
PAM’s second deputy chairman Kaarlo Julkunen says that the union entered into negotiations with the employers’ side, because there were strong messages from the government last summer that opening hours would be deregulated in any case.
Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen (Nat. Coalition Party) has said that he was in favour of unrestricted opening hours for shops. According to Julkunen, the union wanted to win “protective elements” for its employees.
Julkunen says that the union persuaded the management side to agree to extra payments, which would normally be negotiated only in connection with the drafting of a labour contract.
The management side far from unanimous on the matter. Deregulation had been called for by large store chains, but it was opposed by small businesses and the Association of Specialised Stores, which are also affiliated with Federation of Finnish Commerce.
Tiina Oksala of the Association of Specialised Stores says that the expansion of Sunday trading will be expensive for specialist shops.
“Paying the price for the expanded opening hours will be the labour-intensive specialist shops, whose labour costs in relation to turnover are significantly higher than for retailers of perishable goods”, Oksala says.
She says that the higher costs will be a problem especially in shopping complexes, which force specialised stores to remain open on Sundays during the hours that the large supermarkets want to stay open.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Only moderate changes in prospect for Sunday opening hours (1.3.2006)
Retailers edge closer to regular Sunday opening in ministry proposals (2.6.2005)
Service Union United (PAM)
Federation of Finnish Commerce