French late-night shopping row hits Printemps

PARIS Tue Jan 7, 2014 11:09am EST

PARIS Jan 7 (Reuters) - Two French labour unions said they had filed a legal complaint against luxury Parisian department store Printemps over its late-night opening hours, following similar successful complaints against retailers including Apple .

Unions, trying to defend the 35-hour working week, are pitted against some retailers and even some employees who want to increase business at a time when unemployment is at a 16-year high of over 10 percent and economic growth is stagnant.

The CFDT and CGT unions, together with Printemps' works council, said in a statement on Tuesday that the store's late-night closing time of 10 p.m. on Thursdays is against the law and that it is not allowed to have staff working past 9 p.m.

According to French law, stores can open after 9 p.m. only in exceptional cases - either of economic necessity or for the benefit of society - or once an agreement with staff is signed.

The complaint follows several court rulings last year against retailers such as Apple Store and LVMH cosmetics chain Sephora, which had been keeping their doors open well beyond 9 p.m.

A hearing is due on Jan. 23 at the Paris High Court, where the unions will ask that Printemps be blocked from late-night trading, the statement said.

Printemps declined to comment. The department store, which has for several years adopted a more upscale strategy to compete with nearby Galeries Lafayette, was bought by Qatari investors last year.

In an interview in September with newspaper Journal du Dimanche, French Junior Minister for Trade Sylvia Pinel said the government was not prepared to change the law but that flexibility was possible via talks between employees and management. (Reporting by Lionel Laurent and Pascale Denis; Editing by Pravin Char)