French Justice Ministry hired '40,500 undeclared workers'

A general view of France's Justice Ministry on the Place Vendome is seen in Paris © Charles Platiau
Over 40,000 undeclared workers have been hired by France's Justice Ministry, local press report citing a leaked investigation. Should a class action lawsuit be launched, it could reportedly set the public purse back over €500,000.

The 2014 report, cited by AFP, claims to have found that a total of 50,000 "occasional public service workers" had not been hired on proper terms.

The probe, carried out by inspectors of the Finance, Judicial and Social Services Departments, reportedly established that the Justice Ministry alone hired as many as 40,500 of undeclared workers, some of whom included interpreters and social helpers, often employed on a daily basis and paid by the hour. It means that contributions to France's welfare system or value-added tax (VAT) were not paid. The document said that the practice turned out to be long-standing.

"The Ministry of Justice applies no requirement for social security contributions" for these casual workers, the report stated, according to AFP. Instead, "remuneration is treated as payment for work by external suppliers, yet no steps are taken to apply VAT," it added.

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A number of suits have already been filed by some individuals, most of them translator-interpreters, who reportedly complained over gaps in their contributions to France's welfare system, caused by the casual practice.

"These are people who work exclusively at the request of police or judicial authorities. It's 100 percent of their professional activity. They must be available 24/7. There're no pay slips and social protection provided by the state," lawyer David Dokhan told France Inter radio.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira "is keen to act on this issue," a ministry spokesman told AFP, adding that an "action plan" had already been created, which includes the rapid recruitment of 45 interpreters.

A ruling is expected early next year to clarify the status of casual workers. According to the Justice Minister's spokesperson, there will be a "gradual move towards payment of social security contributions."