FRANCE

'I’m in one hell of a mess'

Michel Tudeng has been out of work since Dec. 19, 2008. He is one of some 80 temporary workers from the Arcelor-Mittal site in eastern France whose contracts have not been renewed. Read his story...

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Michel Tudeng has been out of work since Dec. 19, 2008. He is one of some 80 temporary workers from the Arcelor-Mittal site in eastern France whose contracts have not been renewed. Tudeng has been left with a bitter taste in his mouth in the wake of promises made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Feb. 4, 2008 to maintain all the activities of the steel works. Today, he feels like he has been fooled and accuses the head of state of lying. He is finding it hard to get out of his financial difficulties. His wife is also out of work.Forty-three-year-old Michel Tugend, a former temporary worker at steel giant Arcelor-Mittal, hasn't paid his rent for the past three months.

I've been unemployed since Dec. 19 and so far I've only received 810 euros in unemployment benefits, about 57% of my basic daily wages - approximately 28.95 euros per day. Honestly, it's not enough. I'm in deep trouble. My wife has also been unemployed since August 2008. Her salary was lower than mine but she receives more in benefits: 950 euros per month. So I'll be going to the French unemployment benefits office, ASSEDIC. Maybe they have made an error in my case.

We've not paid rent for the past three months (680 euros per month). Maybe a housing-aid organization (Cilgère in the French city of Metz) may help us pay our landlord and we'll pay back the organisation in installments (57 euros per month). I also owe money to Loca-Pass, another housing-benefits organisation, which lent us money to pay our three-month deposit. I pay 35 euros in installments. Taxes are another problem - 80 euros per month. We do our weekly groceries at Norma - a discount supermarket. Our budget is 90 euros per week for three people. We've really had to cut down on buying meat and fish.

Our budget for February's school vacation is also low. We'll be going to the swimming pool, it doesn't cost much. We'll also be visiting Amnéville (a French city popular for its thermal baths and spas). A friend of ours will loan us his membership card.  All this for our son, I wouldn't care less if we didn't do anything special.

I've over-drawn money from my bank account this month, but I don't have a choice. The banks don't understand. Last time I withdrew an extra 500 euros from my account, CAF (a government benefits agency) had to bail me out. But it's not a donation; I've to pay them back!

There are no job openings for me in the steel industry. In two years and four months, I never managed to sign a contract but other temporary workers recruited after me have been hired.  It's all about contacts. This is how it works. Even in my case, I got a lead from someone I know about a security guard's job in Luxemburg. I'm going to try.

Click here to read Sophie's account : "Sacked in ten minutes"