All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

New brooms for old

While George Herbert might proclaim that drudgery may be divine if undertaken in the right spirit more worldly souls might  consider that cleaning ranks well down the scale of paid activity.
Not demanding, therefore not commanding a high salary.

How anyone can come to that conclusion faced with the differing care required by items of modern furnishing is beyond need good glasses, a science qualification and the patience of a saint not to speak of a cupboard in which to lock the cleaning stuff away from any curious child.

In earlier times all the child had to do was distinguish between lemonade and bleach when investigating unlabelled its mind would be boggled given the choice on offer.

However, one element of local government in France has recognised the value of cleaning and is aware of the burden of responsibility laid on the shoulders of its office cleaners.
After all, one determined assault on the computer keyboard with  a duster and away go the online catalogues from which the President of the Conseil General ( a sort of County Council) is attempting to choose his holiday....
Which will be taken in the company of his charming Director of Communications and will later  feature in the budget as a fact finding mission enquiring into models of local democracy in some warm and sunny French overseas possession.

Serious stuff, so the cleaner must keep her mind on her work.
No outside distractions.
No second job to make ends meet as she is paid only the  SMIC ( the minimum wage) at 9.4 Euros per hour.

So you may imagine the outrage when it was discovered that a local government cleaner had been giving a hand in her son's bakery shop.
She'd given him a hand one August.....though it could not be proved whether this was for the whole or only a part of the month...and she had regularly given him a hand on Sunday mornings....which could be proved.

The council gave her an unpaid period of suspension.
The cleaner asked them to think again.
The council refused.

It ended in the administrative court where the council was told that its refusal to reconsider was not valid because the appropriate beaurocrat did not sign where he should have signed....and the cleaner was told to pay the council 800 Euros.

So, point made.
You can't do two jobs if you are a council cleaner.

Surprisingly enough, though, the President of the Conseil General has three jobs.

He is Maire of his commune.
As his commune numbers less than 500 inhabitants he gets paid 646 Euros a month.

Should his commmune register 501 inhabitants he could trouser 1178 Euros a month which exlains the anxiety of maires of small communes to employ their relatives to take the census and the eagerness of said relatives to include any living person found in the limits of the commune on the day.
Suddenly, the foreigners are welcome.....Oncle Tom Cobbley inclus.

The payment rises with the number of inhabitants...the sum going up to a top whack of 5,512 Euros with, of course, this being France, the chance to round up this sum still further by being maire of a departmental  or cantonal capital (from 15% to 25 %)....not to speak of being in a tourist zone when a whopping 25 % can be added.

Oh, and there's the small addition of the expenses account given him by the commune....

He is, of course, also President of the Conseil General, for which he pockets 5,512 Euros per month and, as he lives outside the departmental capital, can claim free appropriate accommodation.

And, cherry on the cake, he is a Senator, drawing 7,100 Euros a month, plus an expenses allowance of  6,240 Euros and a  sum to enable him to employ staff of 7,548 Euros....which will meet even his wife's level of maintenance of her nails while typing his letters.
Not to forget the unlimited first class rail travel and forty flights to his constituency.
Oh, and the appartment in the heart of Paris.

Added to which he gets a pension package that would make your eyes water.
Especially if you are the taxpayer coughing up for it all.

But clearly, you are saying, he can't pull in some money like that plus expenses and's indecent.

Well he used to be able to, but no more.
His income from these posts has been capped at  8,272 Euros per month...except not all the income counts towards the cap....certainly not the expenses account and the staff money.

However, you rejoice, at least the state claws back the rest.

No it doesn't.

When capping first came in in 1992 the Senator (or  Deputy) could give the surplus to whomsoever he liked.....and did.
Like the proprietors of property they wished to buy.

Later, it was provided that the Senator could only hand over the surplus to another elected representative.....helping the poor devil to a better place at the trough.

One of Hollande's election promises was that in future elected representatives would not be permitted to fill more than one post.....just like the cleaner.
Now in power, he doesn't seem so keen to enforce it on his troops.

It might hurt their feelings...or their wallets.

It might make them feel that they are being treated like cleaners.....the people whose aspirations they claim to represent.


  1. Apparently being a Mafia "cleaner" is much more preferable. The pay is better and, as long as you're not focusing on the family, you can moonlight too.

    1. Schools are letting down our young people when they omit this option as a career path...

  2. Omigod. I don't know what to say when I hear about stuff like this.

    I suppose it shows a way of thinking generally that seems rather alien to me. When I had a lot of dealings with French government I used to get the same feeling in fact. To think they are only 32 miles away from us! :D

    1. My view exactly....they simply do think differently - but why?

  3. It makes my blood boil too, this accumulation of mandats. And when Hollande says he's going to stop it and then doesn't cos it's all about jobs for the boys, the hypocrisy gets me even more.

    I'm a member of the Contribuables Associes who are working to ban the accumulation of mandats but it's a long uphill struggle. No one wants to give up the perks of multiple salaries, but it really is the last straw that they punish a poor fonctionnaire cleaner. My disgust hits new highs.

    1. Over the years I felt that the only way of coping with France was to follow the advice of the White Queen and practice believing six impossible things before breakfast.

      My friends in France think it's a scandal too but as you know, mounting a campaign is a long hard job with no press support.

  4. I think I need you permanently installed in my house in France, warning me of all these things. This is truly horrifying. I am certainly getting to rely on you for this sort of information. J.

    1. When you've been there for a bit longer - reading your newspaper - you'll know all about it for yourself, just as Sarah does....
      It's the flip side of France.

  5. Love this post. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. I'd never thought to ask how much my Mayor is paid, as we are a commune of about 250; now I know. My Mayor is, of course, also a farmer; what else!

  7. Blogger is playin gup

    Linda, thank you.

    Cro Magnon, it passes under the name of an indemnite....and I used to think that maires in rural France had to be farmers, but the nasty little specimen who was last maire but one was a pesticide rep (how apt) and the current maire is a super lady working in remedial education...andnot married to a farmer.
    Shomething wrong shurely, ed....

  8. Thanks for the inside information, Fly. I will read future editions of La Gazette de la Manche with new eyes and try to spot all the local culprits. In church history this multiple office holding was called plurality and was banned long ago....

    1. Aha! another reason for the separation of church and state!

  9. I should imagine that it is difficult enough employing people as cleaners without tying their hands behind their backs.