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France Senate narrowly passes Sunday work bill

[JURIST] The French Senate [official website, in French] on Thursday approved a controversial bill [materials, in French] that allows more businesses in Lille, Marseilles, and Paris to open on Sundays by a vote of 165-159. Under the bill, employees who work Sundays are to be paid at least twice what they normally would be paid. Absent a collective agreement, employees who work Sundays retain the right to take off three Sundays per year. The bill also provides that workers who seek employment and who would be opposed to working Sundays shall not be disqualified as candidates for jobs that would require them to work Sundays. French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] and his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) [party website, in French] supported the measure as a means of increasing economic activity. However, the Socialist party [party website, in French], which opposes the bill, appealed [CNN report] the bill’s constitutionality to the Constitutional Council [official website, in French], which is expected to rule in the next two weeks.

The French National Assembly [official website, in French] approved the bill [JURIST report] last week by a 282-238 vote. The bill alters a 1906 law that established the principle of "Sunday rest." The measure was defeated [Guardian report] last year after some UMP members opposed it. The Catholic church also condemned the measure. Sarkozy was elected [BBC report] in May 2007 on a platform that included the liberalization of France's economic policies, urging [Times report] citizens to "work more to earn more" as a way to stimulate economic growth.

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