Lower house approves measure to expand Sunday commerce
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France's National Assembly has approved a proposal to authorise more businesses in certain tourist and commercial zones to operate on Sundays. The bill must now go before the Senate for approval.
France's National Assembly has approved a proposal that would authorise more businesses in certain tourist areas and urban commercial zones to operate on Sundays, a measure endorsed by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The bill must now go before the Senate for approval.
The 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.
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.
Labour Minister Xavier Darcos says 500 tourist towns, 30 commercial zones and cities with more than one million residents would be affected by the measures, which have come up against opposition from the Church and labour 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 are opposed to extending the workweek to include 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.
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