PARIS: French cosmetics maker Sephora yesterday said it would appeal a court order to close its flagship Paris store by 9pm after it became the latest casualty of a much-contested law banning late-night work.
In a case that has reignited debate over French attitudes to work, employees of the store have attacked the unions that brought the case for preventing them from opting to work longer hours for extra pay at a time of record unemployment.
Monday’s ruling against Sephora follows a string of similar union-initiated moves against Apple, Japanese casual wear designer Uniqlo, supermarket chain Monoprix and the famed Paris department store Galeries Lafayette.
Under French law, companies can ask employees to work between 9pm and 6am but such shifts have to be “exceptional” rather than the rule and justified by a tightly defined set of criteria.
Sephora, whose main Paris store makes 20 percent of its total earnings in post-9 pm sales, said it will comply with the ruling pending the outcome of the appeal. It had been keeping its Champs-Elysees store open until midnight on weekdays and up to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays to capitalise on demand for late-night shopping opportunities from tourists visiting the French capital.
The ruling gave the company little option but to comply. Had it not, it would have had to pay a fine of ¤80,000 ($108,000) for every day it opened after 9pm and for every employee working after that time.
Prior to Monday’s ruling, 58 of the store’s 200 employees would regularly volunteer for late-night work, and several of them were left fuming over the unions’ initiative. Sephora saleswoman Ines Sampiecro said: “We have been stabbed by the unions.”
A 29-year-old employee who identified himself as Emmanuel said the decision was a “disaster”.
He told Le Parisien newspaper that the double pay for working nights and holidays covered nearly all his rent. AFP