France looks into relaxing rules on Sunday shopping

Sun Dec 1, 2013 2:52pm EST
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PARIS (Reuters) - France's labor minister called for local authorities to have more say on a proposed reform of restrictions on Sunday opening for shops, just hours before a government-commissioned report on the issue was to due to be released.

The report, expected to clarify which sectors will be allowed to do business on Sunday and under what conditions, will be presented to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Monday.

In an interview with BFM TV, Labor Minister Michel Sapin called for a "controlled relaxation" of the ban on Sunday work, saying it should be organized on a "regional basis".

He said local authorities were best-placed to gauge residents' shopping needs and habits.

"On one side of the road, it is open. On the other, it does not have the right to open. You have employees who are paid twice as much on Sunday, others nothing more. Of course today one must put some order in this mess," Sapin said.

Several DIY chains, including Bricorama, Castorama and Leroy Merlin, have been pressing the government to allow them to do business on Sunday to preserve jobs and fight competition from Internet retailers working seven days a week.

France's unemployment rate, now at 10.9 percent and close to the all-time high of 11.2 percent set in 1997, is a thorn in the side of President Francois Hollande, who has staked his credibility on turning around the euro zone's second-biggest economy and lowering the jobless total.

Last week Hollande backed away from his pledge to bring unemployment down by the end of the year, saying instead that it would take as long as necessary.

According to French daily Les Echos, the Bailly report will not include sectors other than those which in 2009 received exemptions to the ban on Sunday work such as furniture and gardening retailers.   Continued...

A woman makes her way past past opened and closed shops during a Sunday morning walk at the Butte Montmartre in Paris, July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann