Trade unions have reacted angrily to a plan by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to open more stores in Paris on Sundays in busy tourist areas.
Fabius, who is also in charge of promoting tourism, wants the famous department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, which rake in millions of euros from foreign visitors, notably Chinese tourists, to be allowed to open on Sundays.
Unions however insist the move would have“no economic benefit”, and argue that Sunday is "still a day of rest”.
"Laurent Fabius doesn't know what he's talking about. All the studies show that opening on Sundays has no economic benefit and does not create jobs," Eric Scherrer from the union umbrella group CLIC-P, told The Local on Friday.
In fact Scherrer said it would make things worse.
"Opening the department stores on Sunday would harm the small independent stores in Paris. If you look at London there's no independent stores left. There's just chain stores now, " he said.
Scherrer added that tourists should simply find something else to do on Sundays in Paris. "There's plenty of other attractions for them to visit," he said.
"France is already the most visited country in the world. Tourists come here for the culture not just for the commerce," he said.
Céline Carlen, from CLIC-P warned the government would face a fight if it tried to push through sunday openings.
“All unions for Galleries Lafayette are opposed, and they will have a lot of difficulty discussing it with us,” she told AFP.
Philippe Bellanger, a member of the CGT union, which represents Printemps, told AFP the plans were wrong because foreigners “don’t visit the store at night or on Sundays” and most residents are “absolutely against it”.
Various unions including the CGT are now calling on shop staff at Boulevard Haussman to strike on June 24th against a plan they say will “destroy their right to a life outside work”.
The anger was sparked after Fabius announced during a tourism conference in Paris this week the government's aim for more openings.
"A tourist who finds the shop closed on Sundays will not wait until Thursday," said Fabius, lining up for a war with France's trade unions.
"In consultation with relevant partners, stores in certain areas, which are classified as exceptionally affluent tourist areas, such as Boulevard Haussmann, should be allowed to open on Sundays,” he said.
Speaking at the close of the conference Fabius said the government had fixed a target of attracting 100 million foreign tourists annually compared to 83 million in 2012.
"The logic is simple," said Fabius: "An unhappy tourist is a tourist that never comes back."
Commerce minister Fleur Pellerin stressedthe economic importance of tourism in France.
"is not an amusing or secondary matter… the stakes are the same as exports," she said.
Unions for the retail sector have long battled against extending opening hours late at night or on Sundays, which would bring France more into line with shopping culture in the US or the UK.
Last year they successfully forced cosmetics giant Sephora to close their Champs-Elysee store at 9pm.
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