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French manager paid to do nothing for 12 years

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French manager paid to do nothing for 12 years
SNCF paid a manager over €5,000 a month to do nothing he has claimed. Photo: AFP
11:59 CEST+02:00
The story of a Frenchman named Charles Simon made waves in France this week after it emerged the manager had been paid more than €5,000 a month by state rail operator SNCF over a period of 12 years, despite not working for a single day. He now wants €500,000 compensation.

Simon, a manager with a subsidiary of SNCF, turned whistle-blower this week to own up to the fact he has been receiving his €5,400 a month pay check for the last 12 years, despite sitting at home all that time.

His incredible admission, first published in Le Point magazine, has stunned France, a country renowned for its complex labour laws.

“Each month I receive a pay slip and a transfer into my bank,” Simon told BFM TV. “Last month, like every month of June over the years, I received a €600 holiday bonus.”

But despite receiving his healthy wage packet each month, Simon is not happy at having to "work from home" all this time and has accused SNCF of ruining his career.

He is demanding they pay him €500,000 compensation for effectively cutting him adrift, albeit with his salary intact.

He says he fell out with his employers, the logistics company Geodis Solutions, in 2003 after claiming to have discovered fraudulent practice that was costing SNCF €20 million.

“After three years of working normally, I discovered a fraud relating to false invoices adding up to €20 million,” he said.

But after alerting his bosses he was apparently cut loose and Geodis Solutions told SNCF to find him another position – and it appears he is still waiting.

He claims he has basically had no choice but to sit at home for 12 years waiting for the phone to ring to find out his new assignment.

He says he has written letters to SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy that have remained unanswered. 

“I demand recognition of the damage done to me. If I had not been stuck in a cupboard, I could have had a wonderful career,” he said.

The whistle-blower has gone public with his story in the hope protecting others who are sidelined after discovering fraud at a company. 

A spokeswoman for SNCF told The Local on Friday that Simon had a special "railway worker" (cheminot) employment status that has prevented him from being fired over the years.

"The vast majority of people who have this status want to work," she said.

The spokeswoman said Simon had "played the system" by refusing numerous posts offered over the years and by demanding "sums of money". To rub salt into their wounds he now wants €500,000 compensation.

SNCF say Simon is due to return to work in September to take up a position as an auditor, but if he refuses to do so, the company will take steps to finally fire him.

"There will be no more negotiations. If there's not there, that will be the end," she said.

The French rail network is in €40 billion debt which is set to double by 2025 unless it can cut costs.

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