French prime minister backs civil service pay rise

By on 02/10/2015
French civil servants could see their pay increase from 2017

French civil servants could see their pay increase from 2017, as the country’s prime minister Manuel Valls expressed he was determined to override labour union opposition to a plan for measured wage civil service pay rises.

Valls, regarded by many fellow Socialists as overly liberal on economic issues, said on Wednesday he would not allow ‘recalcitrant’ unions to block implementation of a wage programme that had already been under discussion for a year, according to a report by Reuters news agency.

“Standstill is not an option for our country,” he said, adding that “the government will live up to its responsibilities.”

The pay plan drafted by civil service minister Marylise Lebranchu would be implemented even if it had marginally missed the level of union support that the government initially accepted as necessary.

Civil servants, whose salaries have been capped for several years as the government tries to honour European commitments to reduce its public-sector deficit, would see measured pay rises phased in from 2017 onwards.

Lebranchu said the plan covering the period 2017-20 would raise the starting salary of civil servants by between €500 ($561) and €1,889 a year while the rises would range from just over €1,000 to as much as €2,111 ($2,366) for people with a far longer time in the job.

“Killing off this deal would be catastrophic for the civil service,” she said.

The pay issue came to a head when the large CGT union announced on Tuesday it and some smaller unions would not sign the deal, leaving Lebranchu with support from unions representing 49% of civil service employees – marginally short of the absolute majority that the government initially said would be enough to go ahead.

The standoff also coincided with the unveiling of the 2016 budget bill, in which the government is seeking to pursue its strategy of deficit containment with limited tax cuts in what will be the last year before the 2017 presidential election.

The deal is supported by the other large labour union, the more moderate CFDT, and several smaller unions.

In a statement, the CGT said its gripes about government commitment to the public service had been compounded by recent declarations in which economy minister Emmanuel Macron  suggested the status of France’s civil servants was no longer appropriate.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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