German unions, churches win Sunday shopping fight

13 December 2014 - 19:32 By Bloomberg

In Germany, where hard work is prized, one day of the week remains sacred for rest.

While neighbouring France rolled out plans this week to loosen restrictions on Sunday work hours, Germany is tightening rules on the few businesses that had been allowed to open.

The country's ban on stores trading on Sundays, which stretches back to 1919, was enshrined in the West German constitution after World War 2. Unions and churches oppose any effort to relax regulations.

"As few employees as possible should have to work on a Sunday," Hans Ulrich Anke, the head of the Evangelical Church in Germany, said. "Pure economic and competition interests must take second place to that."

Europe's largest economy is at odds with a trend across the region in recent years to liberalise labour laws that previously shut stores on Sundays.

France announced a plan on Wednesday to loosen Sunday shopping restrictions as part of an effort to free up business and bolster growth.

Germany's bricks-and-mortar shops risk losing sales to internet retailers. Berlin-based online retailer Zalando said Saturdays and Sundays were its strongest shopping days.

Last month, Germany's top court ordered the state of Hesse to stop letting libraries, video stores and lottery sellers operate on Sundays.

 - Bloomberg

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