Unions threaten Juppe over plan for pay freeze

MARY DEJEVSKY

Paris

France could face serious labour unrest this winter unless a dispute between the government and trade unions on public sector pay can be sorted out in the next few weeks. At meetings with union leaders and employers' organisations this week, the Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, said he was imposing a pay freeze on all public sector workers in return for maintaining staff levels.

Union leaders emerged from the meetings warning of strike action if the government did not reverse its position. While trade unions in France are weak - less than 10 per cent of the workforce belongs to a union - they are strong in the public sector.

Any labour unrest would have knock-on effects for France's domestic budget deficit and the value of the franc, at a time when Mr Juppe is trying to increase jobs and reduce the budget deficit.

On Thursday, the gloom on the labour front was relieved when unions and employers' organisations said they had reached a separate agreement on an early retirement scheme that could allow up to 200,000 people to retire prematurely,freeing 100,000 jobs for the young unemployed. It emerged yesterday, however, that the deal was not clear-cut, as implementation would be voluntary on the part of employers.

In principle, the scheme would allow those born between 1936 and 1938 to retire from October with a pension worth 65 per cent of their final salary. It now appears employers can refuse a worker's request to benefit from the scheme. The agreement had been widely praised, in an attempt by unions and the government to disguise the impending conflict over public- sector pay.

At his meetings with union leaders, Mr Juppe spelt out both the parlous state of France's public finances and his determination that everyone should do their bit to help create jobs and curb state spending. More than 20 per cent of French employees are in the public sector, including teachers, hospital workers, and post and telecommunications workers; their pay accounts for 40 per cent of public spending.

News of Mr Juppe's intention to freeze public-sector pay through 1996 spread like wildfire, and was the subject of much indignation from union leaders and employees, who cited their low average pay and the fact that the government was not curbing private-sector pay.

Government officials justified their position on three grounds: that public employees had enjoyed average rises of more than 4 per cent last year at a time when the inflation rate was less than 2 per cent; that the statutory minimum wage was raised by more than 4 per cent in July, and that jobs in the public sector were not being cut, as some, including the former economy minister, Alain Madelin, had advocated.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms