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Pharmacies in Athens with new-old opening hours

31 October 2013 / 16:10:44  GRReporter
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Greek pharmacists’ resistance against the liberalization of their profession in recent years has led to incomplete measures that have further complicated the opening hours of pharmacies, which have been strange and uncomfortable anyway. Finding an open pharmacy on Monday and Wednesday afternoons often turns into a marathon. Some of the pharmacies are observing the old opening hours (from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm), others are open to 5:00 pm in compliance with the new opening hours set by the municipality of Athens three months ago, whereas a third group of them are open to 11:00 pm.

But the chaos does not stop here. Two days ago, the regional administration of Attica issued an order stipulating that the opening hours of pharmacies in Athens voted on in July "cannot be applied because they are not legal." According to the decision of the municipal council, the opening hours were as follows: from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays; from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; and from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays.

The municipal councils in other areas, where the vast majority of pharmacists are complying with the changed opening hours, have also taken similar decisions. In Athens, however, a large number of pharmacists are refusing to accept them. Instead, some of them are even taking advantage of the lack of control and are opening and closing their pharmacies when they want to in practice. The Association of Pharmacists in Athens state that it has received a large number of complaints that some of the busiest pharmacies open for only three hours on Saturdays.

According to commentators, the new opening hours of pharmacies have enabled the pharmacists to increase their turnover and open up new jobs. It is expected that their abolition in the area of Athens will provoke reactions in the sector. The pharmacists claim that they have employed staff for overtime and now want time to decide whether the pharmacies will be able to work all week to 11:00 pm or if they will open in compliance with the old opening hours.

The "extended" opening hours (from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm) were voted on in 2011. The pharmacists who have applied them were and still are the object of attacks by the associations of pharmacists. The main argument of the unionists is that the changes will destroy the small pharmacies. Even today the associations prohibit the pharmacies with extended opening hours from placing lists of pharmacies on duty in their windows, although they are legally obliged to do so.

At present, the number of pharmacies in Athens, which have been working with "extended" hours, is 370. Since 2012, they have hired about 600 pharmacists and assistant pharmacists. Nearly 20 of these pharmacies are open every day to 11:00 pm and half of the total number are open on Saturdays. According to their owners, their customers are very pleased with the fact that they may visit the pharmacy at any time. They also add that the extended opening hours are increasing mainly the medium and larger pharmacies’ turnover.
"The majority of the pharmacies are reporting 40% percent losses in turnover which is due to the cuts in health care costs and to the decline in prices. My losses do not exceed 10%," says a pharmacist who has preferred to open every day from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm. He says that there are customers who, although they are living in remote districts of Athens, prefer his pharmacy because they know that it is continuously open until late evening.
In an attempt to put order in the chaos, the Ministry of Health is discussing the introduction of equal opening hours for the pharmacies throughout the country. The most probable scenario is for opening hours from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm for Mondays to Fridays, and from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays.

At the same time, the new law on the regulation of the retail market will undergo its first test this Sunday. According to Article 16 of the law, shops throughout Greece will be able to open on 3 November, two days after the beginning of the interim period of discounts, which will last until 9 November.

By law, the union bodies of retailers should decide whether the shops would open on Sunday. Thus, the shops in different cities are supposed to be opened at different times. While the law provides for opening hours from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, in Athens they will be open from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, in Thessaloniki from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm and in Piraeus from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. According to the confederation of Greek retailers, 32% of commercial associations in the country express their willingness to open their shops, 63% disagree and 5% are of the opinion that each retailer should decide this independently.

Employees in commercial sites have already decided not to go to work in protest against the opening of shops and the confederation of Greek retailers has tactfully responded that it respects their right to strike.

Tags: EconomyCompaniesPharmaciesOpening hoursShopsSunday
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