Sunday, November 11, 2007

National Polish holidays – sorry, we are closed


Today, Independence Day, shops all over Poland are shut, due to a law made by the previous government demanding that all retail workers have the day off.

It’s the legacy of the Kaczynski administration. The Solidarity trade union, which was generally supportive of that government, now wants to extend the ban on retail working to every Sunday in the year, instead of just being limited to 11 national holidays.

Only petrol stations and a few other essential services are excluded from the current law.

And if the owner, not an employee, wants to go and open the shop and trade, then they are allowed to.

Going around the few local shops that were open today (all supermarkets have had to close, of course) the results have been a little comic.

Take the grocery shop under the block where I live. The owners and their two kids have been busy all day, serving a higher than usual number of customers, with no regular staff to help out. The problem being that these people may be the owners of the shop, but they appear to know very little about what is actually on the shelves.

The male shop owner is struggling the most, as his super bossy wife stalks the shop, directing operations like General Schwarzkopf.

He’s OK if you ask, as I did, for tomatoes. But when I asked him for the ‘Frontera Chardonnay, po prosze’, he was a little perplexed. I had to explain to him it was a white wine. He rushed into the back of the shop to ask his wife where to find it. After what sounded like a strangling noise for some moments - gurgglll - he re-emerged, red faced, and made for the wine shelves.

I then produced my debit card. He stared at it for a while, then went running back into the backroom to fetch the wife. He seemed wary and suspicious of the new fangled debit card machine. After a brief period of more violent activity, wife comes storming to the till, with husband following sheepishly behind...

And it so it went on...

I felt sorry for the guy. Whether his employees work on national holidays should be between him and his small workforce. This is simply not the State’s business. If employers are made to pay a decent rate at weekends – then shops and customers should be free to use days off as they see fit.

41 comments:

Brad Zimmerman said...

Petrol station owners and restaurants have got to be loving the new law. When I stopped to get LPG on the way back from Łódż ...queue. Fabryka Pizzy ...completely full the entire time.

Anyway, it's a stupid, interfering law and ought to be rescinded as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

The government should not regulate shopping days and hours. The free market will regulate it self. If there is demand from shoppers to shop on certain days the stores will find it profitable to be open. If shoppers stay away the stores will close - simple. In other words the government should stop artificial regulation, let the market decide.

Anonymous said...

You all, Beatroot especially, seem to overlook the religious context of this law. This applies to the secular oriented media as well. Like Israel, Poland is one of the few countries in this world that adheres to its majority religion in a somewhat unified manner. There is something called the "Sabbath". If you aren't aware of it, here is the definition:

"In Christianity, the Sabbath is a weekly religious day of rest as ordained by one of the Ten Commandments: the third commandment by Roman Catholic and Lutheran numbering, and the fourth by Eastern Orthodox and other Protestant numbering. The practice is inherited from Judaism, the parent religion of Christianity; the Hebrew word Hebrew: "shabbat" means "the [day] of rest (or ceasing)" and entails a ceasing or resting from labor. The institution of the Old Testament Sabbath, a "perpetual covenant ... [for] the people of Israel" (Exodus 31:16-17), was in respect for the day during which God rested after having completed the Creation in six days (Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11).

Poland, like Israel, is simply implementing what the Bible (or Torah for the Jewish religion) requires of the religious faithful, regardless of economic or business externalities. Israeli law forbids commerce or activity from Sunset Friday to Saturday evening, when the first 3 stars in the sky are observed (Shabbat). Poland is only following the Third of the Ten Commandmants, forbidding such activitly on the Catholic day of rest, Sunday. Although not all individuals and/or businesses follow this practice, most do.

This (Religious reason) seems to be the ultimate misunderstanding as well when it comes to associating 'homophobia' with Poland and Israel. Both countries, highly religious, evidently follow the laws of their respective religions. Both religions forbid homosexuality. But again, the West and many non-practicing secular liberals stick to their guns in painting anyone or any country that defies the freedoms of homosexuality as being homophobic. The truth is, they forget to include the "religion" component in the equation of their assessment.

Same goes for Sabbath, or Shabbat.

These religious laws, no matter how dated they may appear to be, "are" the law for both Catholics and Jews, and will always be.

Dave Cohen
Wroclaw

Anonymous said...

'These religious laws, no matter how dated they may appear to be, "are" the law for both Catholics and Jews, and will always be.'

Very true indeed (and I have to agree to the rest of David's posting, too).

What I do not understand is that governments that impose religious laws are selective about /which/ biblical laws to adhere.

Homosexuality and adultery are crimes (if you are christian or jewish) and the punishment is death. It may sound a bit old-fashioned but people who take the bible seriously can't decide which of the biblical laws they find "appropriate".

Anonymous said...

Oops, with "David's posting" I meant of course "Dave's posting".

Thorsten, Dublin

varus said...

I agree with the above in that the motivation for these laws is religous. However, didn't Jesus make a very clear point of seperating state and religion when he said' render unto ceasar what is ceasar's and unto god what is god's"? The point is that in the Christian religion the individual is suppossed to embrace the commandments and followthem out of an act of free will. If some one was to demand at gun point that i give money to a begger would that mean that i had committed a charitable act, i think not! The Sabath only has relevence for those that choose to comply with it.

As far as the law goes, working on sundays should be voluntary and workers should be paid time and a half or double time for this choice. If they refuse to work on the sabath, then their wishes should be respected and the employer should refrain from treating them in a negative way.

Harry said...

I'm so pleased that Dave Cohen has posted to explain that Poland is simply following religious law by trying to enforce a day of rest on the Sabbath and to prevent homosexuality. I very much hope that Dave will join me in my attempts to rid Poland of another menace which threatens the eternal souls of people in Poland and throughout the Godless world. That menace is fat bastards.

1 Corinthians 6.9 is the only part of the New Testament which talks about homosexuality and its effects on the soul (sorry but Romans talks about how when people turn their backs on God he gives them up to degrading passions). 1 Corinthians 6.9 says "Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites" and that is why Catholics think that gays should be hounded out of public life. The problem is the rest of the quote; 1 Corinthians 6.10 goes on to say "thieves, gluttons, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God." Of course fornicators and audulterers are not welcome in the Catholic church (try getting married there is you're divorced) but every church in Poland is packed full of fat of bitches and half the priests you see are fat bastards. Even our President, who claims to be a man of God, is fat!

You see how Satan has infiltrated our society and has placed his people in positions of power! Come together with me brothers and sister, join with me the fight against this madness! We must fight for the souls of the greedy. We must gather them into camps where we can control their gluttony, some people may say that we are giving them starvation rations but we are saving their souls! We must also give them back their energy or they will be “idolaters” and thus unable to enter the Kingdom of God. Is it not written “arbeit macht frei”? We must return to the days when the law of the bible is the law of the land!

geez said...

Both secular and religious are sometimes unjust. Even if some folks have come to believe they are divined. And when religion becomes a bulwark of injustice, it insults the Creator.

That said, I agree with what Varus wrote about work and Sundays.

geez said...

Meant to write secular and religious LAWS.

geez said...

And it's always seemed to me that Jesus was the first @n@rchist, not very big on laws:

http://www.jesusradicals.com/

Wonderful essay there by Jacques Elluls, BTW.

Jake said...

Although religion is beyond doubt the underlying reason for the trading law in Poland, it is worth pointing out that this is not the onnly possible justification.

Germany has perhaps the strictest Sunday trading laws in Europe, and the main reason is social benefit - a guaranteeed day off that everyone can enjoy together, without commercial pressures ruling lives 7 days a week.

It seemed a bit absurd to me when I was there, and very frustrating that shops weren't open, but the Germans I spoke to were quite supportive of the system.

Anonymous said...

The violations of the freedom of contract are rather common nowadays in
many countries. If the state can decide whom a private business has to
employ and in what jobs (via some quota systems), what the salary is,
etc, it can also decide when shops must be closed. The "ownership" is
becoming an empty name.

While the Kaczynski's government decision to introduce this law was
influenced (at least partially) by religion, note that the left (LiD)
was also in favor of the law.

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful comments from Dave in Wroclaw. Pity the responses didn't adhere to the same high level.

Anonymous said...

I like it that the shops are usually closed in Germany on Sunday and really can't understand why expats who live in Germany whine about it at least at the beginning of their stay in Germany. There are six other days in the week when you can buy things you need and thanks to the invention of the fridge groceries don't get bad fast.

Sometimes I think that people who are moaning about closed shops on Sunday don't know what to do with their free times besides to go shopping. That is really sad. I don't understand why they just don't spend their free time with their families and friends at home or somewhere else like a park, sport stadium, cinema, zoo and so on. Or they could get hobby which they can practice on Sunday.

It is not the end of the world if you can't go shopping on Sunday. There are a lot of things you can do which have nothing to do with supermarkets and other shops.

By the way I was never hungry on a Sunday because I couldn't buy any groceries and I have lived in Germany my whole life. I only mention this fact because in some expats blogs I have read in the past people always whine about the fact that they couldn't buy for example milk and sound like they are nearly dying because of hunger every Sunday.

sonia said...

This is nothing.

Before the war, an identical law was denounced as anti-semitic, because it effectively closed Jewish businesses for 2 days a week (Sundays by law and Saturday by religious tradition), while Christian businesses were only closed on Sundays, giving them a competitive advantage.

beatroot said...

The government should not regulate shopping days and hours. The free market will regulate it self.

At least ‘the market’ does represent some kind of genuine contact between buyers and sellers. But is it the best means of making decisions? The previous government obviously thought not and decided to impose its view on the country. An entirely legit thing for democratically elected governments to do, but was it the right thing to do?

Dave
You all, Beatroot especially, seem to overlook the religious context of this law. This applies to the secular oriented media as well. Like Israel, Poland is one of the few countries in this world that adheres to its majority religion in a somewhat unified manner.

This is the religious reason for banning Sunday trading. It is also nonsense.

Firstly, Poland is not like Israel. Israel is a ‘Jewish’ state. Poland is not a ‘Christian’ state. There is nothing that says Poles must be Catholic before they become Polish citizens.

Since the Enlightenment there has been a separation of religion and state – laws are not made on religious principles. Poland is not Saudi Arabia (another one of your states ‘that adheres to its majority religion in a somewhat unified manner..’, I suppose.

BY stressing the religious nature of this law ignores the social democratic/socialist support for the law – as has been mentioned. The trade unions campaigned for the law and the PiS government gave it to them to buy a few more votes.

Harry is merely pointing out that if one followed the text of the Bible in a literal way – something few do – then what a very strange nation Poland would be. These texts are not meant to be the basis of laws in the 21st century.

The violations of the freedom of contract are rather common nowadays in
many countries. If the state can decide whom a private business has to
employ and in what jobs (via some quota systems), what the salary is,
etc, it can also decide when shops must be closed. The "ownership" is
becoming an empty name.


I agree quotas can be a problem, and they are extremely patronizing to the disabled, etc. And it just shows that the state should keep out of civil society as much as possible.

Sonia
Before the war [in Poland], an identical law was denounced as anti-Semitic, because it effectively closed Jewish businesses for 2 days a week (Sundays by law and Saturday by religious tradition), while Christian businesses were only closed on Sundays, giving them a competitive advantage.

Correct. These were Dmowskian laws and made to do as exactly what you say.

But as you can see from the above discussion, something as petty as Sunday/holiday trading laws can produce a profound discussion. Interesting.

Renegade Eye said...

The retail workers have a day off unpaid?

Anonymous said...

Beatroot said:

"This is the religious reason for banning Sunday trading. It is also nonsense.

Wrong. It is not nonsense. To you and the select few, it is . Poland is over 95% Catholic, and laws in such a country will be careful not to violate the religious standards of its majority citizens. Beatroot, you will never be capable to comprehend this because of your secular, non-practicing ways. Your views are very typical of the common secular liberal, who also reside in Israel in small numbers and blow out their hot air.

Firstly, Poland is not like Israel. Israel is a ‘Jewish’ state. Poland is not a ‘Christian’ state. There is nothing that says Poles must be Catholic before they become Polish citizens.

Wrong. Poland and Israel are more alike than any two countries in existance today. These are two countries that still uphold the values and practices of their respective religions, more than most countries do. Many countries have fallen victim to secularism, and have lost out to capitalism and liberalism, and more are following, like Spain and Ireland for example. Israel is a "Jewish state" in the sense that all Jews have the right to become citizens automatically via the "Law of Return". But to become a citizen of Israel, one must "not" be Jewish, although it helps. Poland also has a law that allows those with Polish roots (parents or grandparents born in Poland) to become Polish citizens, but again, it isn't a requirement. My wife became a Polish citizen in this way. There is no law stating that one must be Jewish to become a citizen of Israel. Please read the following requirments from the "Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs":

Acquisition of Israeli Nationality

Israel's Nationality Law relates to anyone wishing to settle in Israel, as well as those already residing or born there, regardless of race, religion, creed, sex or political beliefs. Citizenship may be acquired by:

1) Birth

2) The Law of Return

3) Residence

4) Naturalization

The fourth, "Naturalization", allows non-Jews (gentiles) the opportunity to become citizens of Israel.

Very similar to Poland I must say, the citizenship laws.

Since the Enlightenment there has been a separation of religion and state – laws are not made on religious principles.

However, the reality is, laws in all countries where religion is a powerful force (Examples: Poland and Israel) are greatly 'influenced' by religion, regardless of the seperation of religion and state.

Dave Cohen

michael farris said...

Dave, the idea that the great majority of Poles are devout catholics is a long-lived myth that needs to die a screaming death.

My rough estimates:

10-20 % of the population are real hardcore catholics,
40-50 % are catholic to the extent that they're anything (they want to get married in church have their kids baptised etc but don't follow specifically catholic doctrine to any significant degree,
30-40 % CINO (catholic in name only) they call themselves catholic but you'd never know it by their actions,
(nb both these last two groups have large, maybe majority opinions that significantly differ from that imposed by catholic principles on topics like abortion, divorce, birth control, capital punishment etc)
05-10 % something else

also catholicism is tied up in politics and the particular political strains it's tied up with at any given time have a big influence on church influence.
In the communist period, the church functioned as an opposition party and had widespread intellectual support. nowadays, political catholicism is tied up in radio maryja and does not enjoy the support of the more educated portions of the population.

the no-business sunday laws (which I have no strong opinion about) are less rooted in catholicism and more rooted in the Polish rest ethic and the idea that certain actions (like days off work) don't count if they're not performed at the same time as the majority of the population. free tuesdays just are not a big draw for Polish people.

finally, does anyone know how this issue polls? what percentage of people support and oppose no-business sundays?

Anonymous said...

Michael,

I think your biased opinion about the "...great majority of Poles are devout catholics is a long-lived myth...", is the ultimate myth. Your accompanying percentages and classifications are also laughable to the extent that they represent nothing and are meaningless.

Never in my life have I ever seen churches so packed, standing room only with worshipers often flowing out of the door, in any country other than Poland. Any visitor (and resident) to Poland cannot deny this fact. Even in foreign countries, former empty Catholic churches and communities have been given a new life due to the very presence of Polish Catholics that are working there. Sure, there are those certain individuals in society that don't follow the ten commandments in detail and deviate in one way or another from the teachings, but this is true in any religion. It is in the minority. There are Jews that do not eat kosher food, or they go out dancing on a Saturday night, or sleep with a Gentile, and so on...Muslims that eat pork, etc. It happens in every religion. In the aggregrate though, it must be said that Poles follow Catholicism very well and are more devoted than your average Catholic...on par with Jews and Judaism in Israel. This is what I admire about the Poles. There are so many similarities between them and Jews. Your opinion, if anything, is extremely biased. Your opinion on Polish Catholicism is a myth. Very poor argument without any basis at all.

The facts are, Poland and Israel are one of the two most religious countries in existance today. Their Catholicism, and Judaism, respectively, are unsurpassed in practice and principle.

Michael, most of your ridiculous arguments need to die a screaming death...surely many readers of this blog think they already have.

Again, the fact is, in countries where religion is a decisive force, most laws in that country will be strongly influenced by religious traditions, and law. Poland and Israel are the best examples of this practice.

Dave Cohen

michael farris said...

Dave, we don't agree. Who'd have thunk it?

By the barometers I use to guesstimate religious feeling (obviously not the same ones you're using) Poland is more religious than most european countries, but a good deal less religious than the US (esp the parts that I've spent the most time in).

michael farris said...

And what about Ireland?

More than one Irish person has told me they find Polish catholicism not very deep (compared to Ireland at least).

beatroot said...

Poland is over 95% Catholic...

:-)

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments from Dave.

Harry said...

Dave: if Poland is so Catholic, how come there isn't a law against being fat? How come there is no social stigma whatsoever against being fat? "Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, gluttons, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God."

Oh, and if Poland is such a Catholic country, how come so few people here believe in 'love thy neighbour'?

Anonymous said...

Harry, you need to raise your level of discourse. As well as open your eyes. I have found the Polish people to be extraordinarily warm, helpful, and compassionate.

But perhaps you're hanging around with a bunch of disgruntled secular leftists. Then I would understand why you think people are intolerant jerks.

geez said...

I spoze our good Irish compadre Damien should be gauged as to his estimation of Polish vis-a-vis Polish Catholicism.

For my two zloty, I'll begin by saying that I recall reading a study that showed that Mass attendence has gone down quite a bit over the past decade among under 30-Poles. Unfortunately, I don't recall where I read it but I'm sure some enterprising soul can dogpile it.

I can say that when I was in Poland in the 70s there were a lot more people in the pews than the last time I visited right after the turn of the century. And there were hardly any young couples to be seen.

So to keep it short, I agree with Michael aside from his quip about the "deep." I don't think his divisions or percentages are that far off the mark.

Comparative on the whole and in the aggregate to Catholics in other countries, though, I sorta agree with David.

geez said...

Funny thing is, I've heard pray tell of the seven countries he's lived in, Harry claims Poland as his favorite.

But I don't think I've ever read anything by Harry that has said anything nice about Poland.

michael farris said...

geez, 'deep' wasn't reall the word I wanted, maybe 'all encompassing' or 'pervasive' might be better.

One Irish person I knew mentioned he had lots of friends who were college educated and didn't self-identify as especially religious but disapproved of legalizing divorce. I've never come across a single Polish person who thinks divorce should be illegal (though they may disapprove of the practice in lots of individual cases).

beatroot said...

Look, Irish have as pragmatic a view of Catholicism as Poles. In fact, there is much more anger about the invasive nature of the church there – and it has been much more invasive than in Poland – in Ireland.

But Ireland has changed very fast in the last 30 years. It is much more secular, folk don’t claim anymore that ‘the church runs feckin country’, like they used to. And divorce has been legal for 12 years.

It’s called modernization and it is gonna happen here too. Already has in many ways.

95 percent catholic. :-)

Harry said...

Poles love their neighbours? Guess that would account for the general high-esteem in which Germans and Russians are held.

Poland's a great place provided that you are able to at least be mistaken for a white hetrosexual Catholic. If you obvious are not all of those things, it becomes far less pleasant.

Anonymous said...

Dave: "Never in my life have I ever seen churches so packed"
Well, try counting people in a supermarket on Sunday. Especially just before Christmas ;-)

beatroot said...

Shopping malls are the new churches. Blue City shopping mall in Warsaw even looks like a church.

Now that is sad, and it's good - all at the same time.

geez said...

The fastest growing churches in the US are mega-churches, often located in shopping malls. They don't look like churches. Big TV screens, lotsa entertainment. Funny about the Blue City Mall looking like a church. Is there a url with a photo of it???

beatroot said...

This is not a good angle of what I mean, but you can see the 'dome' which is the building's main feature - from a good angle it reminds of St Pauls in London.

:-)

http://www.k-flex.pl/typo3temp/pics/9d776ecdab.jpg

geez said...

St. Paul's in London? I'll look that one up.

But from the url, Blue City looks more like a flying saucer to me.

geez said...

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Looked up St. Paul's and it looks to me like the US Capitol.

geez said...

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Looked up St. Paul's and it looks to me like the US Capitol.

A said...

Dave, the idea that the great majority of Poles are devout catholics is a long-lived myth that needs to die a screaming death.

I couldn't agree more. However, your estimates are really far off. There is consistent, high quality, survey research which is published by CBOS on a regular basis. You can consult it here: http://www.cbos.pl/EN/Bulletin/r2006.shtml
and http://www.cbos.pl/EN/Bulletin/r2001.shtml

Poles might be religious, but Poland is a secular state and not a theocracy. Religious laws which mandate the observation of a religious holiday for non-believers is a violation of human and civil rights--rights which Poland harmonized upon accession to the European Union.

There is no reason that observant Poles who own businesses can't decide to observe the sabbath. But there is every reason why non-observant Poles shouldn't be forced to do so.

michael farris said...

I don't see any contradiction, CBOS measures what people answer on surveys, my (very) rough guesstimates are based on personal observation...
apples and oranges.

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