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French jobless sue job centre for failing them

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French jobless sue job centre for failing them
A Pôle Emploi sign offers the chance of recruitment. For one group of jobseekers, the job centre failed them, so they are suing them for up to €300,000 each. Photo: The Local
10:55 CEST+02:00
A group of angry jobseekers in France are aiming to make history as they prepare to sue the country's employment agency. Their grievance? The job centre failed to do enough to find them work and they are demanding €1.8 million in damages.

Who is to blame when it comes to unemployment in France?

While opposition parties blame Socialist government policies for the consecutive rises in the number of jobless, and the government blames the Europe-wide financial crisis, one group of jobseekers in Paris is pinning responsibility for the fact they are unemployed entirely on their local job centre - the Pôle Emploi.

And they want compensation.

According to the six complainants, their local job centre hasn’t done enough to support their job hunt, and they are set to launch legal proceedings at the end of the week. They are demanding up to €300,000 in damages each, French TV TF1 reported on Tuesday.

In a first for France, the jobseekers claim that the Pôle Emploi violated its obligation to provide them proper help in searching for employment, and also failed to give the jobseekers the training they needed.

Florent Hennequin, one of the group’s lawyers, told AFP they hadn’t settled on the amount of damages they would be seeking, but that the figure could well reach €300,000 per person.

One member of the dissatisfied group is a 54-year-old former executive who now delivers newspapers.

After signing on at a branch in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux in February 2009, he was given just three meetings with Pôle Emploi agents, despite his repeated requests, and in three years didn’t receive a single job offer.

Last September, an administrative tribunal in Paris sided with him and ordered the Pôle Emploi to respect their obligations by meeting him within eight days, and then on a regular basis.

However, in October the Conseil d’Etat (France’s highest administrative court), ruled the jobseeker’s case couldn’t continue as an emergency proceeding.

“Now we’re using the normal judicial route, with an appeal for compensation from Pôle Emploi,” said Hennequin, one of the group’s lawyers.

A delegation from the CGT union, as well as lawyers for the jobseekers, plan to present their request for compensation at the Paris headquarters of Pôle Emploi at 10am on Friday,

“In the event that they reject it or fail to respond, we will get the administrative tribunal involved,” the lawyer added.

With the number of unemployed in France reaching a record 3.22 million in April, the Pôle Emploi has been under increased pressure to help deal with the growing number of jobseekers.

In March, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced the creation of 2,000 new jobs at the Pôle Emploi to help deal with rising demand.

What do you think? Should you be allowed to sue your job centre if they don't find you a job?

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