Consular staff sue British Embassy in Paris

Several aggrieved staff members who lost their jobs at the British Consulate in Paris have launched legal action against the embassy, who it accuses of breaking French law when they were made redundant.

Consular staff sue British Embassy in Paris
Former staff at the British Consulate are taking the Embassy to court claiming it broken French law. Photo: Mike Cogh/flickr

The four employees were made redundant along with 17 others when the passport processing office at the Consulate closed down at the end of August and was relocated to London as part of a cost-cutting drive.

The employees, who held both temporary (CDD) and permanent (CDI) contracts claim that under French law the British Embassy had a duty to offer them any subsequent vacancies that arose in other departments but say they were ignored as external candidates continued to be hired.

“The sad thing is, all we wanted was a job, but they didn't re-class us into other departments inside the embassy. They said that we had to apply along with everyone else, and more often than not, they hired externally,” a member of the group, who asked to remain anonymous told The Local on Monday.

The unofficial spokesperson for the employees said the embassy should have acted quicker to help them find alternative roles.

“We had known our department was closing for a long time, at least two years, which meant they had plenty of time to re-class us and hire staff on CDDs to ensure business as usual within the passport office.  

“But, sadly for us, this didn't happen even though we had asked many times.

They made their grievances clear in a letter to the Head of Diplomatic Service Simon Fraser in which they accused their employers of leaving them high and dry as they searched for new jobs.

“The seven locally engaged permanent staff… with a combined 85-years-experience employed at the British Consulate in Paris have been very much left to our own devices with regards to support, assistance and training for our future," their letter read.

A spokeswoman for the British Embassy declined to respond to the allegations when asked by The Local on Monday, saying it would not comment on legal cases.

But in his response letter seen by The Local Mr Fraser denies the British Embassy is subject to French law and defended the steps taken to help the staff find new jobs.

“I do not believe there has been a 'blatant disregard' of local law on economic redundancies. As you know, local law does not require the embassy to proceed with the type of redevelopment. I know that the embassy have offered support and training in a number of ways to help you in the future.

“More generally given its status as a diplomatic mission, wider French legal conditions on economic redundancies are not applicable to the embassy,” the letter adds.

Their complainants' cases are scheduled to be heard by the Conseil de Prud’hommes in Paris in May 2014.

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