A French system that forbids bakeries to open more than six days a week is a pure recipe for encouraging idleness, since it makes no sense at all in a modern world where uninterrupted availability is a basic commodity for a vibrant economy.
A leading French baguette baker has provoked a national debate about the country’s attitudes to work, after being ordered to stop working seven days a week because it is against the law, which in other words obliges its citizens to spend one day a week ‘loafing’.
The baguettes in question had won national acclaim and his baking was so in demand that he was preparing to hire more staff. Then the law put a stop to it.
Stephane Cazenave, forty-two, the enterprising baker, was summoned for questioning by French police. His crime? He was working too hard, and now faces a 1,500-euro 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 euros a year and force him to lay off some of his twenty-two staff, is being seen as a symbol of all that is wrong with anti-business regulations stifling France’s economy.
‘I’m treated like a thug just because I asked to work,’ said Mr Cazenave, winner of the ‘Best Baguette of France’ award last year for his ‘crusty loaves’. ‘Working shouldn’t be a crime in France,’ he told the television channel France3. ‘I open 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.
A petition, ‘Let Stephane Cazenave Work’, has garnered thirty thousand signatures.
François Bayrou, head of the centrist modern group, said: ‘In a country where unemployment has hit record levels one gets the impression that the desire to create more new jobs is viewed as something bad in France and is punished.’
At least we in Britain have taken a firm hand in combating the recession, and are perhaps more aware than many of the European countries that only hard work is the key to salvation. Absurdities of the kind we sometimes see in France are likely to send the wrong message to those who are work shy and idle by nature.
At my young age of eighty-four, I find it very hard to come to terms with ever embracing the concept of retirement. If circumstances force me to call it a day, it would be tantamount to a death sentence.
So take heed, you loafing buggers, and get to work and leave social benefits to those who really need it.