"Nous combattons pour la liberté de travailler le dimanche." (We are fighting for the right to work on Sunday).
Car ce jour la, nous améliorons notre quotidien et celui de nos clients, auprès de nous, les jeunes font leurs premiers pas dans la vie active. (Because that day we improve our daily life and that of our clients - with us, the young take their first steps toward a working life.)
Nous voulons que la loi change et que le gouvernement nous permettre de pouvoir enfin dire "YES WEEKEND" (We want the law changed and the government to allow us to finally say "YES WEEKEND").The pamphlet was signed by Le Collectif des bricoleurs du dimanche. Who are these folks? They are the Ile-de-France employees of two hardware stores, Leroy Merlin and Castorama (for you North American readers these are the equivalent of Home Depot). French law for the most part forbids "le travail dominical" (work on Sunday). There are some exceptions to this - restaurants, for example, or places that serve tourists or the media - but it was, until relatively recently, pretty universally respected and most stores were indeed closed on Sunday. In recent times this has changed. I've watched this evolution with more and more stores (especially the big chains) trying to stay open the entire weekend and many of them succeeding.
But the law is the law and the French government does crack down from time to time and that is exactly what happened to Bricorama. They took it to court and lost and now they are calling for the law to be changed. Bricorama's management argues that it wasn't fair that they be singled out and that being open on Sunday is actually in the best interest of everyone: clients and employees. To be clear, they and the other stores cannot and do not force anyone to work on Sunday. The company has to ask for volunteers and they either get time off or extra money if they do put in the hours on that day.
This appears to be a unique situation where management and the employees are in agreement and so the employees decided to organize on their side to try to get the law changed. And that was how the movement, Le Collectif des bricoleurs du dimanche, was born. They are well organized - they have a Facebook page, they have pamphlets in the stores and they have produced a number of videos in support of their cause. Here is one with testimonials from clients:
Le Collectif des Bricoleurs du Dimanche : le 9... par dm_50c5c5c37fbcb
Not everyone agrees that this is a good idea. The CGT has a good tract here and they point out that the right not to work on the weekend was one that workers had to fight like the devil for in the last century. "En généralisant le travail du dimanche, c’est le libéralisme et le tout à la consommation qui priment au détriment des valeurs fondant notre société." (Universalizing work on Sunday is liberalism and all things for consumerism which rules to the detriment of the fundamental values of our society." They argue that this "volunteerism" is a lie and that the big stores will use it to pressure employees to work weekends and more and more hours to their benefit and not at all for the good of the employees.
I see their point. I worked in IT here for many years and attest to the fact that management quite often does just that - put pressure on IT workers to get something done over the weekend so that it's ready for Monday. Easy to do when the work can be done remotely from home and the company risks nothing since work inspectors don't generally invade people's homes on Sunday to catch them finishing up a project. Much harder to pull off this kind of thing when it's a brick and mortar store where people have to be physically present to serve clients and the company can be caught and sanctioned. So the question for me is: Do we really want to give management a green light to generalize work on Sunday?
That's a tough question. This is the 21st century and not the 20th. Clients naturally like having more time on the weekend to do their shopping. Employees like the idea of earning another day off and of making a little extra money. Companies want the business which is not a crime last time I looked. Is it really so hard to consider that this might be a win-win for all parties?
So I'm inclined to come down on the side of the Collectif on this one. I think the ultimate answer lies in keeping it exceptional, making companies pay for the privilege and ensuring that it's always a good deal for the employees. The job of the union should be to make 100% that people are not being implicitly or explicitly pressured to "volunteer" when they would rather be with their families.
I will add however that I am a bit amused that we are talking specifically here about not just any day of the week, but Sunday in particular. I would never be a volunteer for "le travail dominical" simply because my Sunday's are already booked solid with Mass and a day of rest and reflection. This is no longer the case for many (if not most) and I have no quarrel with that or with them. However I do think it is worth reflecting on the origins of this day Christians call "The Lord's Day," which has been turned to a more secular (but still worthy) purpose - allowing hard-working people time to rest and to be with their families. As Chesterton puts it, "And only when they made a holy day for God did they find they had made a holiday for men."