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France lower house approves Sunday work bill

[JURIST] The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Wednesday approved [materials, in French] 282-238 a bill that would relax the country's restrictions on Sunday commercial activities. If passed by the Senate next week, the bill would alter a 1906 law establishing the principle of "Sunday rest" to allow businesses in tourist zones and major cities to open on Sundays. The proposal requires that businesses give employees the option to refuse Sunday working hours, that the refusal to work on Sunday should not effect employment or termination decisions, and that some workers be given overtime compensation for Sunday hours. French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] and his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) [party website] supported the measure as a way to increase economic activity, while labor unions such as the French Confederation of Christian Workers [union website] said that the bill undermines [press release] the country's social ties and threatens worker's quality of life.

The lifting of the Sunday commercial restriction is part of Sarkozy's plan to encourage more entrepreneurial activity in France. The measure was defeated [Guardian report] last year after meeting resistance from inside UMP, being condemned by the Catholic church and protested by workers and their representatives. Sarkozy was elected [BBC report] in May 2007 on a platform that included liberalization of France's economic policies, urging [Times report] citizens to "work more to earn more" as a means to encourage economic growth.

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