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A Clear and Enforceable Law Regulating Store Operations on Sundays

Zagreb (IKA) (IKA )

Statement by the Justitia et Pax Commission on Preserving the Culture of No Work on Sundays

Zagreb (IKA) – On January 19, the Justitia et Pax Commission of the Croatian Conference of Bishops presented a statement on the preservation of the culture of no work on Sundays at a press conference held at the Secretariat of the CCB in Zagreb. The hope was expressed that the public authorities would regulate work on Sundays, preserving the dignity of Croatian citizens and promoting the interests of the Croatian economy. Through this statement, the Commission wished to join the discussion that would facilitate the passage of a new law to protect the culture of Sunday and the human and labor rights of store workers. The regulation of the operations of stores on Sundays, according to the statement, due its support by the absolute majority of the citizens, provides a good possibility for an initiative for even better regulation of other segments of the economy and public life in Croatia.

The future law, in the opinion of the Commission, should be clear, enforceable, without exceptions and regulate the necessary sales network at defined places. In the statement by the Commission, it was explained that work on Sunday must be regulated on the level of the state and it should not be possible for the law to be circumvented in such a manner that exceptions become the rule according to the discretion local communities that cannot withstand the pressure of big capital.

Furthermore, the statement emphasizes that it is particularly necessary through regulation to exclude possible direct agreements between employers and individual workers, because this would mean the degradation the worker who must agree to all the conditions in order to hold onto a job, and thereby would also challenge the right to free Sundays, which is guaranteed by the Labor Act and other domestic and international legal acts.

The Justitia et Pax Commission in its statement cautions that work on Sunday has multiple undesirable consequences: overly tired people work less well, become ill more easily and more often, and become a burden on the taxpayer. They are also exposed to a greater risk of poverty, insofar as their illnesses become chronic in character and employers no longer wish to employ them, which is often the case with exhausted sales personnel who are most often of the female sex. The statement points out that this is also a matter of sexual discrimination.

In the statement, which was signed by the president of the Commission, Bishop Vlado Košić, it is mentioned that the legislators should also take the protection of the Croatian economy into account, especially tourism, which would be helped by stores not working on Sundays and not harmed, as often asserted publicly. With such a clear ruling prohibiting stores from working on Sundays, the government would receive much higher revenues from profit tax. Clear legislation would also help the inspection service to supervise the implementation of the law more effectively.

The statement comments on the fact that in our country it is said that in the process of the coordination of domestic legislation with the legal regulations of the EU, the public often lacks information on how specific questions are legally regulated in various EU countries and how these countries attempt to protect their national economies within the economic sphere of stable democracies, each in its own specific way. Bearing in mind the situation regarding the various legal regulations in this area, the members of the Commission are of the opinion that we must not take the former communist societies as legislative models because they did not protect their citizens in the social sphere, especially the impoverished classes. Instead, legislative models should found among the societies of Central Europe: Austria, Italy and Germany, with which we are connected by many historical, cultural and civilized values.

Emphasizing that for preserving the integrity of a society, a collective time of rest is necessary, the Commission urged the passage of a law that would effectively protect the rights of workers, especially the right to no work on Sundays and a law stipulating a 40-hour work week. Passing a clear and enforceable law regulating store operations on Sunday would provide an incentive for better regulation of public life in other areas because it would contribute to the creation of the legal safeguarding and protection of the weak, according to the statement.

Bishop Košić said that through this statement the Commission wants to join the public discussion on this problem. According to a ruling by the Constitutional Court, the amendments to the Stores Act are no longer in force and a new proposed law is in preparation. It would be necessary to hear all the relevant voices on this subject. The president of the Commission explained that the statement emphasizes protection of the worker and the individual and does not speak about religious reasons.

In response to a question about whether there will be some joint initiatives and pressure on the Government and Parliament, the secretary of the Commission, Dr. Željko Tanjić, answered that the Commission, together with the Center for the Promotion of the Social Doctrine of the Church, plans to organize a round table discussion on this topic that would include other relevant factors in the society. He commented that the Commission does not exert pressure but proposes elements that its members consider important for the legal regulations and that the desire of the Commission members is to stimulate public discussion. He also noted that good proposals can come from various sides.

In response to a question about whether the Commission is in favor of prohibiting cafés from operating on Sundays, Gordon Črpić answered that they had never instituted an initiative to prohibit cafés from working on Sundays, which does not mean that they are in favor of overtime work in tourism and stores that is not compensated. He explained that this statement places emphasis upon work in stores but that it is also necessary to regulate work in hospitality objects.