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France adopts Sunday trading

FRANCE is set to let shops in tourist areas and special urban retail zones open on Sundays, after parliament yesterday approved a law liberalizing trading as part of President Nicolas Sarkozy's reform agenda.

Like some other reform plans, such as a shake-up in education, the Sunday trading law was watered down after criticism from opposition politicians and unions who feared it would deprive people of their day of rest.

As in much of Europe, the French public remains divided, with polls showing people torn between convenient shopping and respect for the spiritual and cultural break. Parliament approved the law with 282 votes against 238.

Under the new law, which will still have to pass the Senate, retailers in tourist areas or spas will be allowed to open on Sunday.

Grocers will be allowed to open until 1pm, rather than noon, and big cities such as Paris and Lille will be able to create special retail zones for Sunday trading.

Employees working on Sundays must do so voluntarily and will be paid double their usual rate.

Earlier this month, a Liberation newspaper poll showed just over half of French oppose Sunday work, while more than 80 percent see Sunday as an important spiritual and recreational day and want it broadly to remain a day of rest.

But a poll by Le Figaro newspaper in December showed two-thirds of French people were in favour of letting shops open on Sunday if they wanted to do.

Restrictions on Sunday trading, once common in Europe, have been gradually eroded despite heavy opposition from the Church ever since Britain liberalized its trading laws in the 1990s.


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