There have been some communication issues between the two governing parties that make it harder to judge how the future of businesses in Hungary will shape itself. KDNP parliamentary group leader Péter Harrach said the proposal has the government’s blessing. But Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga, of Fidesz, said he finds the idea “not to be wise when one-fifth of Hungarians do their shopping on Sundays”.
The new law would also limit opening hours on other days from 6am to 10pm, which could be harsh on shoppers. The government said it will consult with trade unions and commercial companies before deciding.
As Varga said, many Hungarians shop on Sundays for various reasons. Perhaps some of them could just as well buy groceries any other day, and then again others won’t have the time on weekdays or Saturdays. Trade union LIGA said many shops are crowded on Saturdays as it is; eliminating a day open would make the situation even worse.
The biggest impact would be on shopkeepers, however. Not only would a day be removed from the work-week but all-night shops would lose their advantage. Along with another proposal to raise the special tax on large-scale commercial ventures from 0,1% of revenue to up to 6%, this would put a huge strain on large retailers.
Whether this is a good or a bad thing is up to personal opinion, although it is a possibility that in part it will be the customers who pay the price of this tax raise. If both proposals were to pass, it would mean a huge drop in revenue for the commercial sector, which is of prime importance to the national economy. As a consequence, employees might see a drop in wages and job opportunities. However, according to Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén (KDNP), the economy is strong enough to allow for the enactment of this law and there will be few detrimental effects overall.
KDNP being a Christian party tells a lot about the motivation for Sunday closing. The rationale is questionable, however. According to the text of the proposal, one of the reasons is to “protect the family, the building block of the Hungarian society”, a clear implication that Sunday shopping is detrimental to the nation’s family life. Another reason is to protect employees’ mental and physical well-being. This disregards the fact that employer and employee usually have an agreement about weekend hours; there are scarcely any people working a seven-day work-week.
The outcome is not clear yet. If the government takes the views of those concerned into account, there will be no obligatory Sunday closing. However, latest news indicates that now there is in fact wide support and consensus between the coalition parties on the matter.
Employers want referendum
The National Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers (VOSZ) will start collecting signatures for a referendum if Parliament adopts a law banning shopping centres from opening on Sundays. VOSZ head Ferenc Dávid has expressed “shock and worry” that “interest groups in and outside Parliament” are seeking to “deliberately jeopardise or eliminate jobs in commerce”. A closure of retail units on Sunday would automatically eliminate tens of thousands of positions, he said in a statement to state news agency MTI. It noted that the unemployment rate is still above 7%. Dávid emphasised that VOSZ is a politically independent organisation, and it would collect the necessary signatures in cooperation with partner organisations and trade unions that are not associated with politics.