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Give us a break, Poles tell Tesco

Polish parliamentarians have voted to ban trading on Catholic feast days after complaints that foreign hypermarkets such as Tesco are ignoring the religious needs of staff, writes Jonathan Luxmoore.

“Discussions about shopping on Sundays and feast days have been going on for years,” said Stanislaw Szwed, a member of Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party. “The forcing of work, especially from women who fulfil a key family role, is negatively evaluated by most of society, while the payments offered for working on feast days aren’t satisfactory.”

Under the new law, trading is to be banned on 12 days a year, including Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Assumption and All Saints’ Day, as well as on Christmas and New Year’s Day and Poland’s national Constitution and Independence Days. The decision follows complaints about low pay and excessive hours among Tesco’s 25,000 Polish employees, some of whom have also objected to being denied Sundays off and the chance to observe Catholic traditions.

A member of Poland’s Civic Platform opposition, Ewa Wolek, told the Sejm (the Polish parliament) that many small traders preferred to work on feast days, adding that her party believed current regulations were sufficient. However, another Law and Justice MP, Beata Mazurek, insisted tighter legislation would enable families to spend important religious occasions together.

With six million customers weekly, Tesco runs 280 supermarkets in Poland and plans to open a further 50. A British-based spokeswoman for the company, Monika Kosinska, told The Tablet that all Tesco employees had the right to choose their working hours. “We treat people fairly and offer them attractive benefits and development opportunities.

“Each employee’s working schedule is tailored to the individual and where there are specific requests we respect them, such as not working night shifts or on certain days.”

Preaching at a June Mass in Gdansk, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, urged Polish Catholics to ensure “current market complexities” did not “prevent us living our faith at festive moments”.

Full story at The Tablet.

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