France Torn Apart by Sunday Shopping Crisis

“They already work six days out of seven, which is more than enough for all of us to buy the things we need.”

François Hollande

Think of France as America... if it had been run by Obama for thirty years. Its current crisis, aside from Vallis doing his best Sarkozy imitation, is Sunday shopping.

Two of France’s retail giants Leroy Merlin and Castorama defied a court order and opened for business on Sunday. The shops in Paris and some of the capital’s suburbs had been told on Thursday not to open their doors and now face fines of up to 120,000 euros per store.

The issue is unions.

“Once Sunday work becomes generalized, do you think no one will be forced to work Sunday?” Eric Scherrer, head of the Interprofessional Union of Commerce Workers, said in an interview with France Inter radio today.

Castorama says it has polled its employees and 93 percent favor being allowed to work Sunday. No one is forced to work Sunday, when salaries are 50 percent higher.

Those bonuses only exist because of laws limiting Sunday work, said Scherrer. “Do you think they will continue to pay those bonuses?” he asked.

A total of 4 million people work in retail, Scherrer said, and “they already work six days out of seven, which is more than enough for all of us to buy the things we need.”

Hollande, currently the least popular French figure since Pepé Le Pew with a 23 percent approval rating is all over this crisis.

Sunday shopping is turning into a political hot potato for French President Francois Hollande.

Faced with a standoff over stores wanting to open Sunday and unions opposing it, his Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault today did what he often does in such cases: he named a committee to study the issue.

“Sunday rest is an essential principle in terms of protecting labor and for social cohesion,” Ayrault said in a statement. “At the same time, Sunday work is a reality.”

Since becoming prime minister in May 2012, Ayrault has created “missions” to make proposals on issues including taxation of Internet companies, the tax status of non-profits, the prices paid to egg farmers, violence in schools, prison conditions in overseas territories, and how to promote exports.

Socialism. It really works.