Paris: Daggers are drawn in France over a century-old law obliging the country's bakers to shut shop once a week after bakery chains called for the rule to be scrapped in the name of free enterprise.
Traditional boulangers have warned that dropping the law could sound the death knell for local bakers who are the pride of France.
The French federation of baking companies (FEB) - the big bakers - last month officially requested the 1919 law enforcing a day of rest be dropped. The chains reportedly sought to strike after the election of President Emmanuel Macron, who led a drive to extend commercial opening hours. The FEB cited a survey suggesting that 87 per cent of French wanted to be able to buy bread every day and 56 per cent were for scrapping the law.
"We're not obliging anyone to open all hours, we are asking for free enterprise not to be bridled," said Matthieu Labbe, president of FEB.
Many bakers argue that a seven-day-week operation could kill their profession.
"France's 32,000 bakers are entitled to this weekly day of rest to spend time with the family," said Dominique Anract, a baker in Paris and president of the National Confederation of French Bakers. "Tomorrow no young person will want to enter the business by taking over a bakery seven days a week."
Bakeries stagger their days off, meaning there was always an outlet nearby. "To open one more day will only spread the same turnover over seven days, and thus bring up costs," he said.