(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.
(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.
PARIS — Two months ago, faced with a standoff over stores wanting to open Sunday and unions opposing it, French President Francois Hollande's government formed a committee.
Their advice? More negotiations. The committee called for the government to survey company and labor representatives, repeating the work they reported Monday, to come up with a law to take effect in two years.
The failure to make a decision underscores the fragile support for Hollande, whom polls show is the least popular president since 1958. As premier of the Socialist government, Jean-Marc Ayrault has created "missions" on issues including taxing 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.
"Hollande neither wants to be seen backing down on this issue, nor does he want to disappoint people who want him to back down," said Laurent Dubois, a professor at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. "So he asks for more talks."
On Sunday shopping, Hollande is seeking to appease unions and the left wing of his party, which want stores to remain mainly closed on Sundays. Companies and some of their employees, who see Sunday work as a way to combat France's about 11 percent unemployment rate, want more flexibility.
The limits stem from a 1906 law that effectively forbids most non-food retailers from opening Sunday. The law has been modified over the years, leaving a mishmash of rules. Stores can open Sunday on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, although not on the "Grands Boulevards," which have the largest department stores. Furniture and gardening stores can remain open, while do-it-yourself outlets can't.
The current law "is incomprehensible and poorly understood," Ayrault said, but "Sunday is not a day like any other and we don't want it to become one."
On Sept. 30, the premier asked Jean-Paul Bailly, 66, who recently retired as chairman and chief executive officer of the French postal service to study the matter. Bailly's report Monday suggested removing furniture from the list of stores that can open Sunday, while allowing do-it-yourself outlets in the Paris region to open until new laws take effect in 2015.
He also proposed increasing the number of Sundays other stores can choose to stay open to 12 from five, and having local governments redraw the districts they consider to be "touristy," and therefore allowed to open.
A February 2013 CSA poll cited in Bailly report said 72 percent of the French want more shopping options Sunday.
Sunday and night work has risen over the past 20 years, according to state statistical institute Insee. About 3 million people work regularly Sunday and 3.5 million occasionally, while 16.2 million never do, according to Insee's 2013 yearbook. The 29 percent who work Sunday is up from 20 percent in 1990.