Dysfunctions: Serial resignations in Estavayer

Dysfunctions: Serial resignations in Estavayer
Dysfunctions: Serial resignations in Estavayer

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An unhealthy working climate is said to be the cause of numerous departures within the municipality. Testimonials.

Behind the facade of the Town Hall, tensions are high. © Alain Wicht

Behind the facade of the Town Hall, tensions are high. © Alain Wicht

Published on 05/15/2024

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Nothing is going well at the Town Hall in Estavayer-le-Lac. The functioning of the municipality has been plagued by a long series of resignations of municipal employees since the start of the legislature – at least fifteen –, a trend which has accelerated since this winter.

Former employees agreed to testify about the reasons that pushed them to leave, some on condition of anonymity for fear of not finding a job but also because their health was impacted. Lack of consideration, moral harassment, pressure or unfounded accusations: they all denounce a toxic work environment generated by the actions of several municipal councilors, the trustee Eric Chassot being the most singled out.

Thanks to several sources, Freedom learned that three members of the municipal police team left this spring, including the sector head who had been there for many years. At least four department heads, three sector heads and six employees have reportedly ended their collaboration with the municipality since the start of the legislature. But this would only be the tip of the iceberg.

Among Estavayer’s 175 employees, others would have left after a few months, not counting sick leave linked to burn-out. Last departure on May 10 (see Freedom 13.5.2024), that of municipal councilor Jean-Claude Votta due to the conflict between him and Eric Chassot.

Too much pressure

Questioned about these criticisms, the trustee and the general secretary Armand Villadoniga refused to answer our questions. These concerned the number of resignations, dismissals and appointments within municipal staff, but also the payment of compensation in the context of resignations as revealed by testimonies.

The two men underline in their written response that “all employers are required to exercise great reserve when it comes to a situation relating to personnel, in particular to protect the personality of its employees, with reference to the personnel regulations of the municipality d’Estavayer and according to the personnel law.

They also recall that “all municipal employees and ex-employees are subject to official secrecy and the law on data protection during their employment and after termination of their service relationship”.

But tongues are loosened. Hired last August, municipal police officer Arianit Shasivari resigned in May while his predecessors would have stayed eight months for one and four days for the other. “It was too difficult to cope with all the demands. We were three agents on the ground and the Municipal Council wanted us to do more active prevention, not to mention the administrative burden and the growing number of demonstrations. I went to speak to my superiors and the trustee about this pressure which was weighing on our shoulders but they did not listen to me. Every time I came with proposals, I was not taken into consideration.”

Too much pressure also for Jean-Pierre Dague, cleaning agent between 2018 and 2019 then steward until 2023. “Our team took care of 120 buildings and for a year and a half, I found myself almost alone because the one of my colleagues was sick. I was at the end of my rope.” He says he also suffered “psychological and moral harassment” leading to him being on sick leave for several months and having to undergo therapy to successfully turn the page.

“I was accused of theft and damage to equipment. The court concluded that there was no evidence against me and I was able to obtain compensation from the municipality.” According to another anonymous Source, there was real relentlessness against the intendant. “We can’t do anything against these elected officials but some municipal councilors treat people in an inhumane manner. We must denounce this situation so that people realize that there is a problem,” insists Jean-Pierre Dague.

Forced to resign

Another person, wishing to remain anonymous, believes she was pushed to leave. “I worked at the municipality for several years, I always had very good evaluations, even though during this period I had four different department heads and four different human resources managers due to numerous departures or dismissals.” Despite this, she was given new specifications which she described as not corresponding to her skills.

“For me it was a sneaky way of push me to leave. I finally resigned and got compensation. This town is the worst place I have worked.” This person also wants to point out that when Estavayer received the Commune en santé label, “six sector and department heads were burned out.”

“Certain municipal councilors separate themselves from all those who disturb”
Anonymous Source

Another similar testimony from a person involved in the municipality for several years: “I was threatened by telling me that my annual evaluations would be poor if I did not sign a departure agreement. As I knew my time was limited and I wanted to be able to find work, I agreed to leave with compensation.”

For this person, “some municipal councilors separate themselves from all those who are disruptive and it is very difficult for the health of the staff. Citizens must be made aware, I have never seen such a situation with any of my previous employers. And the compensation to settle all these forced resignations costs taxpayers.”

If the situation seems serious, the prefect of the Friborg Broye district Nicolas Kilchoer notes that no appeal has been filed by employees of the municipality. He recalls that Eric Chassot launched a preliminary investigation concerning the functioning of the Municipal Council by appointing an external lawyer following the recent case opposing him to Jean-Claude Votta. The latter filed a complaint with the criminal authorities against the trustee because of his behavior.

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