Sunday trade survey set

The Chamber of Commerce will launch a new survey of member attitudes towards Sunday trading this week.

Polling its 675 corporate members, and as many as 40 individuals and associates, the chamber will update its 1999 assessment of support for seven-day commercial activity.

‘Cayman has a very strong Christian base, and we have members who don’t support it and members who do,’ said chamber Chief Executive Officer Wil Pineau.

‘There are several factors regarding business on Sunday: one is the availability of local staff who already have a 40-hour work week; two is looking at the quality of life and whether owners or staff would support a seven-day week.’

Because owners would be forced either to pay overtime or hire more staff, Mr. Pineau said, questions arise of Sunday profitability.

He is careful to avoid an opinion, but casts the issue in terms of Cayman traditions.

‘Many believe it’s a day of rest, and in the past, that’s the way it used to be in Cayman.

‘Today, maybe things are changing, and we want to measure the views. We want to be proactive so when the government reviews the trading laws, we can provide informed opinion.’

Mr. Pineau, like others, believes no changes will be made until after the 11 May elections, but Al Ebanks, head of the Cayman Ministers’ Association and pastor at the Agape Family Worship Centre, isn’t thinking about elections.

‘I don’t support [Sunday trading], and while some of my concerns are from a religious point of view, I am more concerned about the traditional influences and values passed on from our forefathers.’

Reverend Ebanks’ primary fear, he said, was for low-income families ‘working two or three jobs, and whose kids are being neglected’.

Additionally, Cayman tradition and history has always decreed Sunday as a day of rest. Changing that, he said, has ramifications.

‘Cayman needs to make a decision about what it is prepared to give up. It’s not about giving people choice. It’s never been a secret there was no trading on Sunday, and this has been valued and respected.’

He recognises that some shops open on Sundays, but argues that the post-Ivan needs that allowed Foster’s Food Fair to open have mostly passed.

‘We got beat up pretty badly and we lived under different circumstances. We recognised the need to provide services to people,’ he said.

‘However, that is now being used as an excuse and opportunity to continue on. The circumstance is that if your dog is in a ditch, you pull him out. We had the stores open to make sure the dog didn’t die. Well, now we’ve pulled him out of the ditch.’

The owners of Foster’s Food Fair, however, argued they provided an important service to the community, and while they respected the range of sentiment regarding Sunday closing, the public response to the market’s seven-day business had been overwhelming.

‘We have had no resistance at all and are getting no end of thanks,’ said Woody Foster, general manager of the supermarket chain.

‘We have continued to be open and been hugely successful, especially from a customer-service point of view.’

Fosters gained official permission to open on Sundays in the wake of Ivan, when the community had no running water, little food, no electricity and no kitchens.

‘After the storm it was quite a difficult situation,’ Mr. Foster said, ‘but when we applied to the National Hurricane Committee about Sundays they were in full support. There was no line drawn in the sand that said you have to stop by a certain date.’

People had accused him of greed, he said, telling him to revert to Sunday closings now that the island had recovered sufficiently and the company’s three stores had reopened, but he said he believed seven-day business was the future.

He said he would likely approach Government to discuss Sunday laws, but, like Mr. Pineaau, doubted much would happen before 11 May.

‘We won’t speak to them till after the election, but we feel it’s the right thing to do.

‘There’s a bit of hypocrisy here,’ he said. ‘A lot of church-goers are in the store on Sundays. A lot of people leave church on Sunday and have lunch in a restaurant. A lot of church-goers go diving, and somebody takes them. You leave church and fill up your car at the gas station.

‘People have to work. This is a difficult situation and I am not making light of it, but we think it’s time to move [this way] after Ivan.’

Secretary of the Ministers’ Association, the Church of England’s Reverend Neil Sykes, said he worried about staff at Sunday businesses.

‘People are under so much pressure, and when you have Sunday trading, you force employees not to have a day of rest.

‘There is building work on Sundays, shops want to continue. Cashiers hardly have any choice,’ he said.

‘Traditionally, Sundays have been used as a day of rest, restoration, renewal and worship.

‘This is still valid, perhaps more than ever. People will argue that Sunday is their only day to shop, but … guess what … they’ll soon have to work on Sunday as well.’

He disputed the idea that Sunday openings allowed to some Cayman shops contradicted the principle behind traditional closings.

‘This whole argument is very deceptive. No rule can encompass every reality.

‘For example, some people will have a need for pharmaceuticals on Sunday, and that’s not unreasonable,’ he said. ‘Certain services are needed: police, water.

‘It’s no argument to say society should throw out the baby with the bath water. [Closings] are not so much a hard and fast rule as a response to a basic need,’ Reverend Sykes said.

The pastor of the Frank Sound Church of God, William Peguero, is the owner of the Sounds and Things department store.

He said that he does not open on Sundays — and wouldn’t if he could.

He described the situation as a Catch-22.

‘I don’t jump on anyone who wants to open on Sundays. Our concern is that people get enough time for themselves and that families are getting enough time together.

‘I don’t like the idea of legislation, though, because people are gong to do what they are going to do anyhow,’ he said.

One shop that is regularly open on Sunday, at Buckingham Square in front of the Hyatt Hotel, is 24 K-Mon Jewellers, which caters largely to tourists who crowd downtown every day.

‘There are a lot of people who work six days and don’t have time to go shopping. Sunday is their only day off,’ said Manager Gail Tibbets.

‘I respect that some people want to close on Sunday, but the next guy may not want to,’ she said, like Mr. Foster pointing out the contradictions.

‘There are surely a lot of Cayman people who fly to Florida to shop seven days. I wonder if they would be so eager to go if they knew they couldn’t shop on Sundays.

‘If gas stations and other amenities are open on Sundays, why not other places?’ Ms. Tibbets said.

‘People go to restaurants and out to lunch on Sundays and someone is serving them … and it’s not a machine.’

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