Polish parliament bans trading on Catholic feast days

By Ecumenical News International
July 16, 2007

Polish parliamentarians have voted to ban trading on Roman Catholic feast days after complaints that foreign supermarkets, such as British-owned Tesco, are ignoring the religious needs of workers - writes Jonathan Luxmoore for ENI.

"The forcing of work, especially from women who fulfil a key family role, is negatively evaluated by most of society, while the payments offered for working on feast days aren't satisfactory," Stanislaw Szwed, a member of Poland's governing Law and Justice Party, which sponsored the bill, told members of parliament during a 6 July 2007 debate.

Under the new law, trading is to be banned on 12 days each year, including Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, the feast of the Assumption, and All Saints Day, as well as at Christmas, and on New Year's Day and Poland's national Constitution and Independence days. The law will not apply to restaurants, hotels and petrol stations, or to small shops with single owners.

The decision follows complaints about low pay and excessive hours among Tesco's 25 000 Polish employees, some of whom have also objected to being denied Sundays off.

A British-based spokesperson for the company, Monika Kosinska, told Ecumenical News International that all Tesco employees had the right to choose their working hours.

"We treat people fairly and offer them attractive benefits and development opportunities," Kosinska said. "Each employee's working schedule is tailored to the individual, and where there are specific requests we respect them, such as not working night shifts or on certain days," she added.

With six million customers weekly, Tesco operates 280 supermarkets in Poland and plans to open a further 50 stores in the country. Among recent advertisements, the company reductions for items, such as televisions, bicycles and MP3 players, "most often bought as presents" for children receiving their first communion.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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