Some 20 French trade unions are calling on authorities to reopen shops as of 13 November to address “glaring inequalities” they say are threatening the jobs of more than a million people.
In a joint statement, retailers’ unions along with the employers' organisations Medef and CPME denounced the “unfair” decision to target small shops, while supermarkets and online stores continue trading during a second nationwide lockdown.
The unions, who warn 1.2 million salaried and self-employed jobs are at risk, also appealed for urgent support measures for businesses forced to shut for at least the next month.
"The success of the Covid-19 battle relies on collective acceptability as much as on health measures,” they said. “Decisions can only be accepted when they are felt to be fair.”
The statement – which asks that shops be allowed to reopen when health measures are reviewed two weeks into lockdown – received widespread support from federations representing toy, clothing, leather, shoe, knitwear, lingerie, homeware and equipment retailers.
Non-essential businesses including restaurants, bars and shops have been closed as France battles a brutal second wave of coronavirus infections that has put the health system under renewed stress.
Schools are staying open during the new lockdown, with the French also permitted to leave their homes for work, medical appointments, grocery shopping and brief exercise.
In the name of fairness, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that as of Tuesday products such as books that are sold by small businesses would no longer be available in larger stores.
Battle with mayors
Health Minister Olivia Véran on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of reopening small shops, notably bookshops, as requested by many mayors including Anne Hidalgo.
The Paris mayor earlier urged her constituents: “Don't buy on Amazon. Buy from your bookseller, you can order and come and get your book.”
While agreeing that Amazon had an unfair advantage, Véran told RTL radio that reopening small shops was not an option because the health crisis needed to “take priority”.
"Anne Hidalgo is also president of the supervisory board of Paris hospitals, so she can't ignore the fact that every 15 minutes there is a patient who is hospitalised for Covid,” Véran added.