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France

Macron’s party calls for further easing Sunday work laws

media People walk past the Printemps department store in Paris, France. AFP/Thomas Samson

“What are we waiting for?” In an article published Sunday by the French weekly Journal du dimanche, some 20 MPs from French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling Republic on the Move party (LRM) said France “must go farther” in loosening its Sunday work laws.

“Many French people want more shops to be open on Sunday. They want to be free to buy, to go out, and to work on Sunday,” the LRM MPs wrote.

The article came as Macron prepares his return to the French capital after spending just over two weeks at the presidential holiday residence in the southern French port city of Brégançon. Upon his arrival in Paris, he will once again be tackling the reform agenda he campaigned on and has championed since taking office. Including a labour and business reform bill unveiled by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in June.

The bill, referred to as PACTE, aims to grow the number of small- and medium-sized companies in France by loosening labour laws and increasing employee shareholding, savings schemes and profit-sharing plans.

By scrapping certain regulations for small businesses, the LRM MPs said the bill could give these companies "more freedom to decide whether or not they want to open on Sunday”. A freedom that would “revitalise city centres”, they argued.

“London, Madrid, Rome… all the major European capitals have understood the necessity of allowing shops to open on Sunday. It attracts tourists and boosts commercial activity,” they wrote, adding "the time has come for us to play catch up and offer comparable services”.

The MPs hailed the labour reforms Macron previously oversaw as finance minister in 2015, which allowed for shops in government-designated “international tourist zones” to open on Sunday and close as late as midnight in the evenings. “The ‘Macron bill’ was a success,” they wrote. “What are we waiting for?”

The LRM lawmakers also argued that extending Sunday hours on a broader scale would steer more consumers towards French brick-and-mortar businesses, thereby increasing their competitiveness in the face of digital e-commerce giants like Amazon.

“Local businesses bear the brunt of this competition 24/7,” they wrote. “Even those located in high-traffic commercial districts are struggling, with some being forced to close. This breaks local commerce.”

Under current law, retail shops can open up to 12 Sundays per year, pending local government approval, if employees voluntarily agree to work. Depending on the industry, employees working Sundays can earn overtime pay up to double their regular salary. Retail stores can also operate on Sunday if located in a designated “international tourist zone” or in one of a dozen major train stations.

Sunday shopping had already been allowed in certain tourist areas, like the Avenue Champs-Elysées in Paris, and for certain establishments like department stores, supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

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