Palma.—The number of people losing their jobs in the small retail sector last month was twice the national average and the second highest in Spain and associations representing the small to medium sized shopkeepers yesterday announced that a mass demonstration is to be staged outside Palma City Council tonight in protest against the local authorities' new commercial policies. At yesterday's press conference, Bernat Coll, President of Pimeco, said that thousands will join the rally under the slogan “we either move or we'll die” outside City Hall before marching on the Ministry for the Economy where a document clearly outlining their opposition to the government's new commercial policies, and reasons, will be handed in.

Not only were the two main commercial associations present at yesterday's press briefing, so too were consumer rights organisations.
The main bone of contention is the recent decision by the Balearic government to give hypermarkets “carte blanche” to expand and build new out of town shopping centres.

Bartolome Servera, President of the retail association Afedeco, said that small traders are having to fight for survival in the face of the new commercial laws.

Confrontation “We don't want to confront the government but we find ourselves in an exceptional situation and we have no alternative because the government is not listening to us and did not consult us on any of the changes to the commercial and trading laws.” Consumer rights campaigner, Bernat Ferrer, said that the new laws which permit the centre of Palma to be open all year round are all very well but if there is now going to be a surge in new out of town shopping centres, Palma will eventually become a dormitory city “not just on Sundays, but throughout the week,” Jose Manuel Ovejero, representing the country's largest consumer protection organisation Facua, said that the expansion of hypermarkets infringes the rights of consumers because the superstores tend not to comply with the commercial codes of good practice.

And, the President of the Official College of Commercial Agents, Juan Manuel Cobacho, warned that the government's policies are slowly leading to the “death of the country's economic network” because less and less money is being spent on the high street which, as the Balearics witnessed last month, means less turn over and more unemployment.

Over the past few years, between 25 and 30 percent of Majorca's small shops have been forced to close and the retail sector hopes that over 1'000 people will attend tonight's rally as it begins a battle against the government that it intends to win.

According to many small traders, the situation they are having to live through is “critical” and experts forecast that, unless the Balearic government is prepared to listen, negotiate and give some ground, as many as 1'000 more shops will be forced out of business in the short term.

The protest is also being backed by Majorca's main unions and yesterday shop stewards accused the Balearic government of having no real idea of how serious the situation is on the high streets if Majorca and across the Balearics. “We want a clear and fair commercial law with no more permissions issued for new hypermarkets and an island wide law under which every municipality has the same trading laws,” Servera said.