EDF worker in hot water over book on laziness

29th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 28 (AFP) - A book poking fun at a corporate culture of laziness and its benefits in France has landed its author in hot water with her state employer, Electricite de France (EDF).

PARIS, July 28 (AFP) - A book poking fun at a corporate culture of laziness and its benefits in France has landed its author in hot water with her state employer, Electricite de France (EDF).

Corinne Maier, a 40-year-old economist who has worked part-time at EDF for the past 12 years, is to appear before a disciplinary board accused of disloyalty after writing her book "Bonjour Paresse" (Hello Laziness), sparking condemnation from unions who say freedom of expression is being punished.

Under tongue-in-cheek chapter headings such as "The Morons Who Are Sitting Next To You", "Business Culture, My Arse" and "Why You Can't Lose By Resigning", Maier argued that inaction is often handsomely rewarded in French companies and do-nothings are frequently promoted out of harm's way into senior management.

Although the work would have passed mostly unnoticed in bookstores, it got a sudden publicity boost when EDF decided to take its opinionated employee to task, even though she never mentions the company by name and claims she drew on many sources, especially friends in other firms.

The state-owned electricity company has accused her of taking her lessons to heart by reading a newspaper in a meeting and leaving meetings, and writing a book "aimed at spreading gangrene in the system from within".

EDF refused to elaborate further to AFP, saying it "does not comment on disciplinary procedures underway".

"For 12 years, I've been a model employee, and suddenly they find out I'm a firebomber because I missed one meeting," Maier was quoted as saying by the left-leaning newspaper Liberation.

Unions at her department in EDF issued a statement saying the author "did not reveal any secret" and showed no malice against the company or any of its personnel. It charged the company was trying to "rein in free thought" and demanded that the disciplinary hearing, set for August 17, be dropped.

The title of Maier's book is a play on "Bonjour Tristesse", a 1954 best-selling novel by French author Francoise Sagan that recounted the worldly life of a young woman and her cynical approach to sex and relationships.

Maier's publisher, Editions Michalon, which brought the book out in the beginning of May, counterattacked EDF, saying managers there had "fragile nerves and were overly sensitive" because of government plans to partly privatise the company.

"If the world described with impertinence by Corinne Maier has turned on her, it's proof that she is saying the truth when she denounces a rampant totalitarianism that reins in these big groups," it said in a statement.

Maier, the publisher added, was "very surprised and disappointed by the inept reaction of her company."

© AFP

Subject: French news

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