(Removes extraneous word from headline)
ATHENS Nov 3 Retail workers protested in Athens
against a relaxation of rules restricting the number of Sundays
a year when shops can open, a reform demanded by Greece's
foreign lenders which aims to make its recession-hit economy
After opposition from small retailers and the Orthodox
Church, the government has backed away from allowing retailers
to trade on any Sunday. Instead, the new rule lets them operate
on seven Sundays a year, up from two now.
About 500 shop employees, who fear they will be forced into
more weekend work, marched through the main shopping district on
Sunday when the new rules came into force. They chanted "No more
austerity" and held banners reading "Resist" and "Never on
In a symbolic protest, some blocked for a few minutes the
entrance of stores on Ermou, the main commercial street which
was busy with shoppers looking for autumn bargains. Similar
protests took place in other Greek cities.
Small retailers say that a liberalisation would fail to
boost sales and instead raise their operating costs.
Greece's influential Orthodox Church has said the Sunday
holiday, which was first established in 1908, should be strictly
reserved for religious observance and rest.
But the government says more Sunday shopping would boost
retail sales in a country struggling to pull itself out of a
six-year recession deepened by austerity measures and record
The economy, which relies heavily on tourism, has shrunk by
about a quarter since the crisis broke out in 2009.
"In a country which receives 18.5 million tourists (a year),
which wants to become a weekend destination, it is unthinkable
for shops to stay shut on Sundays," the Deputy Minister of
Development Notis Mitarachi told reporters.
(Reporting by John Kolesidis and Phoebe Fronista; Writing by
Renee Maltezou; editing by David Stamp)