Nicola Harrington - guest blogger living in France with 7 holiday rental gites

Nicola Harrington

The 35 hour working week is extremely important to the French. The French regularly and openly flout many European laws, but not the 35-hour week. The French also don’t appear to like shift work. I am sure that this is one of the reasons that shops only open 35 hours a week and close from mid-day until 2.30 pm.

As a little aside, I know from personal experience that workers, in particular shop assistants, do not like the idea of breaking the sacro-saint rule of Sunday closure. For instance, it isn’t unusual anymore to find an open supermarket on a Sunday morning, or even all day. Shop owners used to get fined if they opened on a Sunday, which is now something of the past. Also, only volunteers used to be called upon to work on a Sunday, whereas these days, if Sunday working is mentioned in their contract, they have to work.

But I digress…

Reminiac is about half an hour from an army training base, the French equivalent to Sandhurst, a major employer in the area. Everyone that we know who works for the army has Friday afternoon off as they have worked their 35 hours. Friday afternoon would not be a good time for a National emergency!

Given that the 35-hour working week also includes civil servants, and that the French are so passionate about it but are reluctant to work shifts, I am increasingly troubled by our rubbish collection.

The French 35 hour week 1

As in the UK, we now have yellow wheelie bins for our recyclable rubbish. This rubbish is collected fortnightly… at 8.00 pm on a Tuesday evening.

This must be a private enterprise but again, this surprises me as there are very few public services that aren’t run by the state. Assuming that it is a private company, I very much admire the person in charge, who is not happy to see the very expensive dustcarts stand idle and has devised a shift pattern to get as many hours ‘work’ from the dustcarts. Bravo… but I would like to know how he managed to persuade his workforce to work shifts…

Whatever his arguments, one thing is for sure: they will all still be working 35 hours a week!

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