French lawmakers on Friday gave the go-ahead to a contentious bill that would allow shops to open on Sundays. The law will come up for voting on Wednesday before being sent to the Senate for consideration.
AFP - French lawmakers on Friday gave the green light to a bill allowing more Sunday trading, a measure championed by President Nicolas Sarkozy but fiercely contested within his right-wing party.
The proposed legislation is a watered-down version of a bill that was pulled from parliament in December, dealing a major setback to Sarkozy who had promised to allow Sunday selling during his election campaign.
The bill sets up special tourist areas and commercial zones in Paris, Lille and Marseille where shops could open on Sundays. So far it does not provide for higher salaries for working on that day.
Lawmakers will vote on the bill on Wednesday before it is to be sent to the upper house Senate.
Supporters say it will affect mostly retailers in cities where many big-chain stores openly defy the current laws and pay hefty fines for opening their doors on Sundays.
"It's time to put an end to the jungle that exists today," Labour Minister Xavier Darcos told RTL radio.
Darcos said 500 tourist towns, 30 commercial zones and cities with more than one million residents would be concerned by the measures, which have come up against opposition from the Church and unions.
French laws on Sunday commerce are far more restrictive than those in the United States and Britain but less so than in Germany, where special permission is needed for shops to open in Berlin.
In France, no Sunday trading has been a rule since a 1906 law consecrated the day of rest, although bakeries, butchers and other small shops are allowed to open until noon.
Recent polls show that while the French believe shops should have the freedom to open on Sundays they also are opposed to extending work on Sundays.
The government has argued that allowing more Sunday trading would help cushion the blow that the recession has dealt to the job market.
Richard Mallie, a deputy from Sarkozy's right-wing party and one of the authors of the bill, has said 15,000 jobs could be saved by allowing more shops to open on Sundays.
Date created : 2009-07-11