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Parliament relaxes Sunday opening restrictions

Sunday is a normal shopping day at Basel railway station

(Keystone Archive)

Shops at major railway stations and airports in Switzerland are set to open 365 days a year after parliament agreed to relax rules on Sunday trading.

Unions were quick to denounce the move towards a seven-day working week, and said they would call a referendum to resist the gradual erosion of workers’ rights.

On Thursday the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to relax Switzerland’s strict Sunday trading restrictions.

The decision means that shops at Switzerland’s airports and at around 25 railway stations will be able to open on Sunday.

Parliamentarians argued that the new law would also serve to clear up confusion over the current regulations, which state that staff can only be employed on Sundays if the shops they work in restrict the range of goods on sale to those which meet the "specific needs of travellers".

At present it is possible to shop on a Sunday at just seven major stations, including Bern, Zurich and Geneva. The Swiss Federal Railways’ “RailCity” concept offers the chance to shop 365 days a year from early morning until late in the evening.

Union leaders condemned parliament’s decision, saying it paved the way for the introduction of Sunday working across the board.

Keeping Sunday special

“The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions does not agree with railway stations being turned into shopping and service centres with Sunday opening,” the federation said in a statement.

“If railway stations are made a special case, sooner or later all other businesses and services will demand the same rights,” it added. “Sunday will become just like any working day.”

The federation said it was confident that Swiss voters would agree that there was no need for shops to open seven days a week.

“In numerous votes the electorate have made it clear that they don’t want Sunday to become a normal working day,” the statement said.

“The federation is convinced that any change in employment law which comes at the expense of workers will be turned down.”

The relaxation of Sunday trading regulations will apply to railway stations with a turnover of more than SFr20 million ($16 million), as well as all airports operating scheduled flights: Zurich, Geneva, Lugano, Bern, St Gallen and Sion.

Parliamentarians argued that visitors to the country should not be faced with closed shops on arrival in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

sunday

Parliament's decision means that shops at 25 railway stations and six airports will be able to open on Sundays.

At present seven railway stations offer Sunday shopping.

Trade unions have said they plan to call a referendum to prevent the decision becoming law.

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