Imagine turning up at work every day and doing absolutely nothing. Or better yet, staying at home and doing nothing and still getting paid. The dream is a reality for 30 French civil servants.
French taxpayers have been spending more than €1 million per year to pay the salaries of 30 so-called “phantom” bureaucrats in the southern city of Toulon, a report by the Provence-Alps-Riviera Regional Audit Office, seen by local newspaper Var-Matin, revealed.
One of these ghosts picked up his state paycheck while simultaneously working a managerial job in the private sector, while all 30 received promotions and pay increases based on seniority, despite not working for more than 25 years.
The workers initially lost their jobs when water services in Toulon were privatized in the 1990s. Local authorities failed to find them replacement jobs, and were therefore bound to keep paying their wages.
“It is regrettable, to say the least, that the city was not capable of finding new jobs for some of these employees, especially the youngest,” the audit report read. The report also criticized the “jobless” workers for staying on the government payroll until the mandatory retirement age of 67 to maximize their pensions.
While money for nothing might be a particularly shocking story, French private sector workers have often bemoaned the ‘jobs for life’ culture of the civil service, which employs nearly one in five French workers. Furthermore, an Economic Ministry report in March revealed that more than 300,000 civil servants were failing to work their statutory 35 hours per week.
The report comes after months of unrest in France, as workers protested their rising tax burden and falling wages.
In a bid to placate an angry public, French President Emanuel Macron promised to cut 120,000 public sector jobs by 2022, to facilitate tax cuts and a reduction of €60 billion in public spending. However, the planned layoffs have also triggered mass protests.
Macron has also promised to pass laws forcing workers to actually show up for their 35-hour work week, and clamp down on staff taking more than their five weeks annual leave.