Saturday, November 09, 2013

The power of Work Union

In Septembre, Sephora in Champs-Elysées was ordered by the court to close its shop by 9pm in the evening. It used to open till mi-night.

In summary:
The shop's management wanted to open its shop till mi-night during weekdays, and till 1am during weekends, as 20% of the sales came after 9pm.
The employees agreed to work late into the night as it allowed them to earn more.
The Work Union, who was supposed to represent the employees, fought against this opening hour and went to court.
The court ordered that the shop would close by 9pm.
101 employees of this shop appealed, but the court maintained its verdict.

Yesterday, the 8pm news announced that Sephora's competitor, Marionnaud, has just reopened its shop after renovation in Chams-Elysées, and it will operate till mi-night.  When interviewed, an officer from the same Union said they will bring the shop to court, just like what happened to Sephora. This Union's mission is to flight against working into late hours and working on Sundays.

From these cases, I can see the power of the Union in this country, it is certainly not a market driven economy, where customers are the king. What I don't understand is that who are the Union representing, in the case where the employees disagreed with them? Does it represent the interest or the believe of the French public in general? Did the court make this decision because it believes the 101 employees didn't know what they wanted and the court and the Union should know better?

Anyway, thinking about all the rigid regulations in operating hours here, I realize I spend less when I live in France. Since I can't buy whatever I want at my convenience, I consume at the most necessary. Eating out on a Sunday? Nah, they are mostly closed anyway. Checking out Christmas gifts after work? Nah, they only open until 7:30pm, don't want to flight the crowd and get stuck in traffics. Going grocery shopping on a Saturday? Are you crazy, it would take you forever to pass through the cashier. Conclusion, our shoppings mostly involve grocery, we try to buy other stuffs online, and if I'm running out of a lotion, it can wait.


  1. Anonymous4:04 PM

    I agree, buying cosmetics on a Sunday is not a must-do. That said, I still think some labour laws should be relaxed in France... I'm still on workers' side but come on, the world has changed!

    Unions can be very powerful in Canada too.

  2. In this case the union was not fighting for the specific employees of this Sephora but for the employees of all other shops that did not have to give up their evening yet.

    If the law became that all shops could open until midnight then they would and employees would have no choice but to work these hours : if they did not agree they would not even be hired in the first place.

    As for the willingness of the Sephora employees, well although some of them surely genuinely wanted to work at night, most of them were surely eager to please their management. In these shops, workforce is easily replaceable and with the unemployment levels these days, one would say anything the boss wants to keep its job or to get hired, even if it meant sacrificing social life.

    There have been a lot of papers on this matter during the debate on sunday opening of home improvement stores : A large majority of people who shops on sunday are for shops opening on sundays but also a very large majority of people (who shops on sunday) do not wish to work on sunday themselves !

    (This satyrical blog post comes to mind :,102915.php)

    1. I also don't want to work on Sundays but I had did my share. I used to work on weekends when I was a student. I loved it because I got to earn more pocket money (double pay on Sunday and triple on Public Holidays), and as a student I see my family all the times, it didn't have to be on Sundays. I feel that it is a good way to join the workforce and get some working experience before graduating.

  3. Also there is a very strong cultural belief in France that life should not all be about earning or spending money and that it is nice to have this money-free day on sunday where basically we cannot spend our day otherwise then enjoying our family, friends, streets or scenery.

    I understand that this has a lot to do with our catholic history and that it can be hard to understand for people coming from other cultures.

    1. Yes but cinemas and swimming pools are open on Sundays so we can still spend family times there. I don't understand why watching a movie in a cinema on Sunday is ok but buying grocery on Sunday is not ok.

  4. Yup, that is something that has always puzzled me. A lot of people that are against people working on Sunday will go to restaurants, amusement parks, movie theaters, museums and what not. They will also religiously buy their baguette and sunday cake, hit the butcher shop, etc ...
    Apparently people working for their leisure do not befall in the "should not work on sunday" category?

  5. same here in Germany. I believe no working on Sunday is based on religion purposes. I find it very inconvenience that Sunday is no shopping day.