The Green party in Lower Saxony wants to restrict online shopping abilities on Sundays to “protect” the leisurely weekends of customer call centre workers.
The Greens say that shoppers would still be able to buy items online on Sundays, but said it would be “sufficient when the processing of orders happens on Monday”.
“Workers must not have to be available the whole weekend,” said state Green party leader Stefan Körner.
The Greens also said their policy proposal is aimed at levelling the playing field for the retail sector and online business.
The debate about opening businesses on Sunday – both online and physically – has been raging on recently with major department stores arguing that to compete with internet commerce on such a significant day of shopping, they should have more flexibility to open on the Christian day of rest. Karstadt and Kaufhof have backed an initiative towards this cause, called “Selbstbestimmter Sonntag”, meaning self-determination Sunday.
But churches and unions criticize this movement, with unions advocating for workers’ rights.
“Working during unfavourable times impedes social contact and the compatibility of family and work,” Verdi union spokesman Andreas Splanemann told Berlin tabloid BZ.
Religious leaders, meanwhile, argue that the protection of Sunday runs much deeper within the country’s values, pointing to Article 139 of the German Constitution, which states: “Sundays and holidays recognized by the state shall remain protected by law as days of rest from work and of spiritual improvement.”
The Protestant Church of Germany argues that Sundays belong to the people and not to merchants.
“Therefore the Constitution protects the day,” said a church spokesman.
Since reforms in 2006, individual states have been able to decide how often stores may open on Sundays, though the Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that shops must have a reason to do so, such as linking the opening to a major festival.
The number of Sundays throughout the year when stores can be open varies widely across the country, from just three Sundays in Baden-Württemberg to ten in Berlin.
The Lower Saxony Green party members are set to vote this weekend officially on including the online shopping provision in their election campaign.