Shops are closed on Sundays under temporary coronavirus regulations (Photo: HRT) Shops are closed on Sundays under temporary coronavirus regulations (Photo: HRT)

The HDZ have come up with a model that would allow shops to operate on 14 Sundays during the year.  Businesses would choose which Sundays they want to stay open, but they will have to pay their workers time and a half for Sunday hours.

Denis Ćupić, the manager of Westgate Shopping Center, says there has been talk for months about regulating store hours, adding that this is the correct name for the issue rather than what has been generally referred to as Sunday labor in political rhetoric and the media.

"The labor workers put in, especially on Sundays and holidays, should be regulated so that there is a clear minimum increased hourly wage. Workers should be protected and should not be overburdened. Workers with medical conditions and pregnant women should not be forced to work on Sunday, following the example of Slovenia," Ćupić pointed out.

He believes the policy supported by Economy Minister Darko Horvat will hurt workers.

"You will have a situation in which wages in retail will fall, workers will be overburdened because there will be lower demand for labor while the number of hours will increase due to the changes in shift schedules," he says.

Zlatica Štulić, the president of the Retail Union says her organization has been fighting against Sunday trading for years.

“This is a broad social issue for us. For workers in retail this is about one day of rest during the week. They want their day off to be Sunday and not some other day. Their families are free then and they want to spend the day with them,” she said.

The need for labor is not going to decline, she believes, because prior to the crisis there was already a shortage of labor that was being covered by students and retirees working part-time.

Čupić underscores that in the non-food retail sector and for malls, Sunday is the biggest shopping day after Saturday, making up 20.9% of weekly sales, according to data compiled by eight shopping malls around the country.

Štulić notes that the union will enter into the public debate on this issue and points out that the proposed extra 6-7 kuna per hour for work on Sundays is completely insufficient, however she supports the HDZ’s plan.

"We support the idea that employers choose a certain number of Sundays when they will be open. I believe we’ll find a solution that will satisfy customers, business owners, and workers, because this is their human right," she said.

Čupić claims most mall shops already pay their staff 30 to 70 percent more for work on Sundays, some even 100%. Štulić disputes this claim, saying her data shows a different picture. She also said she has been contacted by business owners who do little business on Sundays and want to close but are forced to stay open by mall management.