Warning: French Culture in Danger
Besieged by online rivals, retailers are staying open Sunday afternoons with automated cashiers. Critics see an invasion of American-style consumerism.
Please consider Self-Checkout in France Sets Off Battle Over a Day of Rest.
French labor rules prohibit most shops from employing workers past 1 p.m. on Sundays. But as e-commerce and online giants like Amazon usher in an era of round-the-clock spending, retailers are amping up the use of automated cashiers to help them compete.
The move has caused an outcry in France, where Sundays are traditionally a rest day for workers and families. While self-checkout machines are often used alongside cashiers, labor unions say that tilting toward fully cashierless operations threatens the French way of life by encouraging American-style consumerism and automation, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
“Sundays are sacred,” said Patrice Auvinet, the head of the General Confederation of Labor union in Angers, a midsize city in western France. “If they change that, it will change French society. And if automated cashiers become normalized, it will have a catastrophic impact on workers.”
At the Angers store, which employs 115 in a working-class neighborhood, Groupe Casino is having salaried employees clock out as usual at 12:30 p.m. on Sundays, then bringing in security guards, hired through another company, to keep the store open through evening. Groupe Casino had been operating 130 smaller stores in Paris and other cities using self-checkout machines to let consumers shop until midnight or even around the clock.
Chaos mounted when the protesters were joined by local members of the Yellow Vest movement, which arose last year to protest stagnating wages and declining living standards. Denouncing what they said was an erosion of workers’ living standards, they charged through the store, dumping produce in the aisles and heckling customers who were using the automatic checkout machines.
Fourth Week of Transportation Strikes
Travelers in France faced frustrations on Wednesday, as the transport strike extended into its fourth week and coincided with the Christmas holiday.
Thousands of trains were cancelled or delayed, while taxis, ride-sharing services and car rental agencies were overwhelmed by demand. The underground metro in Paris was shut down, except for two lines.
At the center of the labor dispute, which sparked widespread protest and strikes lasting over two weeks, are reforms that would do away with 42 different pension schemes and replace them with a points-based system.
Additionally, the reforms seek to set 64 as the age until which people must work to earn a full pension. That is two years beyond the current official retirement age in France.
Even Paris Opera workers, who can retire at 42, joined the strike. On Tuesday, some 40 dancers performed Swan Lake to passers-by on the steps outside the opera house with banners warning: "Culture in danger."
Warning - Culture in Danger
And it's about time too.
Meanwhile, I suggest France Should Take a Lesson From Ronald Reagan: Fire the Strikers.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock