Thierry Lepaon, the head of France’s most powerful union, the leftist CGT, will need to spend plenty of time on the toilet to get his money's worth out of his new loo seat.
Lepaon has been fighting off calls to resign ever since revelations emerged last week that the union had forked out €130,000 to revamp his plush flat in the Paris suburb of Vincennes.
The reports, which Lepaon said he only learned about through newspapers, caused major embarrassment for the staunchly leftist union leader at a time when he is already fighting an internal rebellion.
But details of the refurb emerged on Wednesday thanks to France’s satirical weekly paper Le Canard Enchainé, which will make for more uncomfortable reading for Lepaon and his union members.
After apparently having studied the bill for the renovations Le Canard found that the CGT had accepted paying €1,397 for a new toilet seat and €689 for a toilet paper and towel rack and €1,595 for a new bathroom sink.
Although the owner of the flat said it had been completely renovated before being rented to the CGT – including a new carpet, Ikea kitchen and freshly painted walls – the union decided it wasn’t in an appropriate state for Lepaon.
“Everything needed to be redone,” said treasurer Eric Lafont, who agreed to hand over €130,000 of union funds.
The union had claimed they had negotiated a rent reduction in exchange for shelling out on the renovations, but both the owner and the estate agent denied any deal had been done.
It also emerged the flat was 79 square metres rather than 120 square metres as the union had claimed. The rent set them back €2,000 a month.
For his part Lepaon said the case revealed “major flaws in the decision-making process” at the union that need to be “corrected” saying the decisions made were never “debated or voted on”.
The CGT has launched an internal investigation to find the source of the original story, who leaked it to the press.
“They will be responsible for their actions,” LePaon said.
Lepaon has been secretary general of France’s biggest union for over a year, replacing Bernard Thibault, who stepped down in 2012.