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Plan to reduce sick pay

Government wants civil servants to lose day’s pay if they are off ill and to make private sector workers lose four

CIVIL servants will lose a day’s pay before compensation for sickness kicks in, the government proposes - but private sector workers will have to lose four instead of three.

The move is meant to help towards lowering the costs of the health system, a major part of France’s large social security debt.

While some MPs have said they think the one day for fonctionnaires is not enough, it is the first time such a measure has been applied to them at all – one example of the privileges enjoyed by civil servants.

Responding, Prime Minister François Fillon said his government had “reduced more than ever before the inequalities between the public and private sectors and the choice of one day “seems reasonable”.

According to Le Parisien the measure would save about €250 million a year.

The change for fonctionnaires will require a law to be passed, but adding an extra day for the private sector, with an expected saving of €200 million a year, is a matter of a regulation change, for which this is unnecessary.

In a statement the ministers for the budget, work and the public sector said sick pay, which amounts to €6.6 billion in a year from social security, has been increasing at an unjustifiable rate (up 5.1% in 2009 and 3.9% last year).

This comes as President Sarkozy hit out at people who commit social security fraud, on a visit to Bordeaux. “Stealing from the social security is to betray the trust of all of the French people,” he said.

He added that a trial will be put in place by the end of the year in 10 departments whereby people receiving the RSA income support will have to do seven hours a week of obligatory work. He insisted it was “not a punishment”, but was to give people dignity. “There is no dignity when you can only survive by holding out your hand,” he said.

A High Council on social security finance will be set up to lead debate on reform of the different branches of the system, the president added.

The fourth day of non-payment of sickness benefits was criticised by unions including the CFDT, whose leader, Véronique Descacq, said: “It is unacceptable to single out workers on sickness leave as being responsible for the social security deficits.”

A group of Socialist senators said in a joint statement the focus on social security fraud but not on tax evasion showed poor priorities. Tax evasion is estimated to cost at least €20 billion a year and social security fraud €10.4 to €17.6bn, but they said: “No means are given to the tax authorities either to detect or oppose tax fraud.”

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