Greek Parliament Passes Bill on Sunday Shopping
    2013-07-24 23:51:44     Xinhua      Web Editor: Mao Yaqing
Greek parliament passed on Wednesday a bill lifting the ban on Sunday shopping under pressure from international lenders in exchange for further bailout aid, as protests against austerity and reforms continued.

Greek parliament passed on Wednesday a bill lifting the ban on Sunday shopping under pressure from international lenders in exchange for further bailout aid, as protests against austerity and reforms continued.

Under the new law, shops of up to 250 square meters could open seven Sundays a year- during Christmas, Easter and sales periods. Under certain location criteria local administration heads can extend the number to a total of 53 Sundays especially for tourist areas.

The majority of stores in Greece at the moment has three late shifts per week and stays open only two Sundays a year during Christmas holidays.

According to the government the deregulation of trading hours will boost small businesses and ease high rates of unemployment and recession.

Owners of small shops, retailers and private employees who marched in the centre of Athens ahead of the vote believe that the law will favor big chains, will be a knock out to small stores and lead to more closures.

The painful austerity and reform drive launched three years ago under bailout deals with European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders who keep Greece afloat continues to spark strong reactions by several parts of Greek society.

Doctors and nurses working in public hospitals held a new 24-hour strike on Wednesday and took to the streets of Athens. They protested over the planned transfers of 12,500 public servants who could end up to dismissals in a year under a mobility scheme which was ratified by the parliament last week under pressure from lenders.

Under the government's plan about 2,500 healthcare personnel will be placed under the program in coming weeks and hospitals will be merged to save costs.

Labor unions claim that the reforms will be disastrous for the national healthcare system and public health. They argue that instead of cutbacks, the system needs more funds and further 25,000 doctors and nurses to cover the needs of patients. They warn that mobilizations will continue.

"Memorandums and austerity seriously harm health," read banners raised by strikers outside the Health Ministry.

"Big hospitals as Amalia Fleming are destroyed. They are being transformed from general hospitals to first aid centers. There will be no cures and the personnel are placed under the mobility scheme. In a few words they dissolve them. The healthcare sector has gigantic gaps. Many vacancies need to be filled. It will not be done with these measures," Michalis Metaxakis, employee at Athens hospital Amalia Fleming, told Xinhua.

Yannis Tziganakis, an employee at Chania hospital travelled from Crete island in the southern Aegean Sea for nine hours to join the rally.

"The government is interested only to find 12,500 employees to satisfy troika's program for layoffs in the public sector. They care only for the numbers. They seem indifferent that the most sensitive sector of public health is in danger. It is a crime when citizens cannot be hospitalized in public hospitals," he told Xinhua.

As a reduced number of Greeks compared to past months continues protests, Athens is under increasing pressure to meet all prior actions agreed with creditors this summer before the release of further rescue loans next week, in August and autumn.

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