French bakers accused in court for working too much

Two bakers from Calvados (Normandy) have been summoned before their local courts, accused of illegally selling bread through their bakery seven days per week.

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Isabelle and Xavier Perret, owners of La Boulaga bakery in the 3,800-inhabitant town of Troarn, stand accused of the “uninterrupted sale of bread”, after opening their shop seven days a week for the past year.

The department bakers’ union (le syndicat départemental des boulangers du Calvados) has accused the couple - who own a bakery in the department - of breaching a 1919 law on bread selling.

The couple has now appeared at the TGI (tribunal de grande instance) de Caen, accused of “disloyal competition” for opening their shop everyday, as - the union claims - “other small artisans do not have the means to do this”.

Mr Perret said: “It’s strange for me to think that I’m having to go to court because I’m working! I have 12 staff members, and I respect their time off. We do shifts, and I respect their right to work.

“It’s shocking to have [a court case] when you hear President [Macron] saying things like ‘You only have to cross the street to find work’.”

According to the couple, being forced to close one day a week would completely disrupt the shop’s functioning, and would lead to the loss of two jobs.

They have now started a petition to help gather support for their case.

But the Perret bakery is not the first to fall foul of competition laws in recent years.

Last July, Servane et Emmanuel Deuval - who run the la Feuillette bakery in Mondeville (Basse-Normandie) - were forbidden in court from selling bread on Tuesdays.

Yet, they now continue to make legal sales seven days a week due to two loopholes in the law.

They sell sandwiches and cakes (but not simple loaves of bread) on Tuesdays, and have installed an automatic vending machine in their car park, which dispenses bread 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At the time, Mr Deuval said: “If it’s a machine that is selling it, the laws don’t apply.”

The laws on selling bread everyday date back to 1919. As a result, most departments in France forbid shops, stands and stalls from selling loaves - such as baguettes - every day, and demand that shops have at least one day off a week.

Yet, the law refers to simple loaves of bread, and critics say that it does not explicitly refer to sandwiches made with bread, pastries, cakes, or other bakery goods.

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