UNION leaders have denounced reform to Sunday trading laws which the government has said will be debated over the summer.
Work Minister Brice Hortefeux said a new law on Sunday opening will be unveiled in the next few weeks so it can be debated and voted on in July.
The timing of the announcement, just days before unions march in solidarity on May 1, has provoked a string of critical responses.
CGT union head Bernard Thibault said bringing back another law on the topic was “pure and simple provocation.” He added: “It’s become a political dogma – they say Sarkozy promised it in his presidential campaign in 2007, as if things hadn’t changed dramatically since then.”
He said relaxed Sunday opening laws would benefit supermarkets but would harm French working life generally and it was opposed by the unions and smaller shops (many of which are already able to open on Sundays). The view was echoed by small business union the CGPME who said it would “inevitably damage local shops.”
CFDT leader François Chérèuqe said while they were open to some more “flexibility” in tourist areas, in general they were “hostile” to more Sunday opening. “There is no study that proves Sunday working will create jobs and help the economy,” he said.
A proposed law which would have allowed Sunday opening in selected commercial areas in large cities was shelved in December after it was criticised not only by opposition MPs but from within the governing UMP party.
UMP MP Richard Mallié, who put forward the shelved law, welcomed the new initiative, saying many shops were losing out by paying heavy penalties for opening on Sunday contrary to the rules – sometimes amounting to millions of euros. Some had been closing because of it, he said. Relaxing the laws would therefore save jobs, he said.
The Attali Commission, which was set up to investigate measure to stimulate the French economy, reported in January 2008 that relaxing Sunday working laws would boost the economy.
Photo: Kenju-Baptiste Oikawa