French manager paid to do nothing for 12 years

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.

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

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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French trains ditch plastic water bottles

French national train operator SNCF has announced it will no longer sell water in plastic bottles on its services, saying the move would reduce the waste from roughly two million drinks.

French train bars will no longer be able to see plastic bottles of water.
French train bars will no longer be able to see plastic bottles of water. Photo: BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP.

The plastic packaging will be replaced with recyclable cardboard for still water and aluminium for sparkling.

“Plastic is no longer fantastic,” head of consumer travel operations at the SNCF, Alain Krakovitch, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

France has gradually increased restrictions on single-use packaging to help reduce waste amid growing evidence about the impact of plastic on sea life in particular.

The government announced on Monday that plastic packaging will be banned for nearly all fruit and vegetables from January next year.

The environment ministry said that 37 percent of fruit and vegetables were sold with plastic packaging, and only the most fragile produce such as strawberries will be given an exemption on the ban until 2026.

“We use an outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that it was working to cut back “the use of throwaway plastic and boost its substitution by other materials or reusable and recyclable packaging.”

Last year, France passed a wide-ranging “circular economy” law to combat waste that forbids retailers from destroying unsold clothes and will ban all single-use plastic containers by 2040.

Paris city authorities announced this week that they were aiming to eliminate all plastic from state day-care centres, canteens and retirement homes by 2026.