Government ban on baguette baker's seven-day working week gives France food for thought
A leading French baguette baker has provoked a national debate about the country's attitude to work after being ordered to stop working seven days a week because it is against the law.
Stephane Cazenave, who runs a boulangerie in Saint-Paul-les-Dax, Landes, faces a €1,500 fine for flouting a 1999 prefectural order obliging any bakery to remain closed for at least one day per week.
The ruling against Mr Cazenave, which he says will cost him €250,000 a year and force him to lay off some of his 22 staff, is being seen as a symbol of all that is wrong with anti-business regulations stifling France's economy.
"I am treated like a thug just because I asked to work," said Mr Cazeneuve, winner of the "best baguette of France" award last year for his crusty loaves.
"Working shouldn't be a crime in France," he told France 3.
"I opened seven days a week three-and-a-half years ago. I create jobs and wealth and I don't see why one would hinder me doing so."
He emphasised that all his employees were given two days off a week and that the ban was on the bakery itself.
"That work can be seen as a crime in our country, and the passion of a craftsman bridled in such a way, should be a wake up call for us to the absurdity of our system," wrote Francois Fillon, a former French prime minister.
A petition called "Let Stephane Cazenave work" has garnered 30,000 signatures.
The Socialist government insisted that it was promoting more flexibility, but that the bakers themselves helped to draw up the current rules. Jean-Pierre Crouzet, head of the national bakers' and confectioners' confederation, said it made sense to uphold the rules to encourage competition by obliging people to buy bread elsewhere at least once a week. "They aren't to prevent people from working but to ensure a balance," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)