On Monday, June 21, working class sections in Luxembourg demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to protest the opening of shops, particularly of retail chains, on public holidays including Sundays. The protesters asked the government to end exemptions that allow shops to open for longer hours on holidays, and demanded their legal closure on holidays.
The mobilization on Monday was part of a continuing protest by workers and trade unions against the Match supermarket chain owned by Belgian distribution group Delhaize, which had announced in May the decision to keep their stores open on all holidays. According to ZLV.lu, workers at the Match supermarket chain have worked extensively during the COVID-19 crisis in precarious conditions, taking serious risks to keep the stores running to ensure availability of essential goods to the public. However, the management’s announcement of holiday work was spontaneously rejected by the employees and trade unions, who termed it exploitative and insensitive.
The protests against this move were organized by the Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation (OGBL). The Communist Party of Luxembourg (KPL) and Dei Lenk (The Left) also participated in Monday’s protest and expressed their solidarity with the workers.
David Angel from the OGBL said that “there have always been efforts by retail groups to not only extend opening times on weekdays, but also to open them on Sundays. In doing so, they are encouraged by ultra-liberal legislation that was created in their interests and at the expense of the employees.” He also asserted that “such retail groups are driven by their desire to steal market share from their competitors and make higher profits. That could be a reason why Match wants to open on all public holidays, unless it’s a test balloon launched by Match, on behalf of all or some of the other retail groups, to see how far they go until resistance arises from the wage earners.”
Regarding the mobilization on Monday, KPL stated, “the opening of supermarkets on public holidays is a real provocation, and moreover, a real slap in the face to workers who find it increasingly difficult to reconcile work, family and free time, following the flexible hours and working on Sundays. As if that were not enough, they are also put under pressure by working on public holidays.”
KPL demanded the government and the Chamber of Deputies to ban work during public holidays by amending the law and to drastically restrict Sunday work in the retail trade sector.
Dei Lenk on Monday also extended its solidarity with workers in trade and other sectors in their fight against holiday work and flexibilization of work hours.