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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le gouvernement désespère les fonctionnaires

by T. L.

French Government Disheartens Civil Servants

Translated Monday 24 June 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

On the radio, civil service minister Marylise Lebranchu officially announced a wage freeze for civil servants in 2014. The trade unions talk of mobilizing after the summer holidays.

Two days before the social conference, a curt sentence had the effect of a bomb on the 5.2 million civil servants whose wages have been frozen since 2010. Questioned yesterday on France Info radio about a possible freezing of the pay schedule used to calculate civil servant salaries, Marylise Lebranchu, the civil service minister, blurted out: “That is indeed the decision that we’ve taken.”

Whereas several trade unions (the CGT, the FSU, Solidaires, FO, the CGC) had already begun preparing for a day of action on wages “at the latest in early October,” the minister justified this position, which had not yet been made official, by citing a “very big government deficit.” “It’s a big problem for France, a big problem for the state budget. Everybody has to participate, especially in a period of crisis, and in particular our civil servants. I understand that they feel wronged.”

For the CGT, the biggest trade union in the public sector, Jean-Marc Canon said it was “hallucinating” that the minister should make such an announcement in the media whereas she “sees the trade unions regularly” and the social conference is nearing. As to the content, he considers the measure to be “wholly inadmissible.” “This’ll be absolutely catastrophic for civil servants’ purchasing power, which is already in free fall!”

“It’s literally scandalous,” said Christian Grolier (FO), noting that this announcement comes “practically in the same week” as the publication of the Moreau report, which discusses the possibility of making the method of calculating civil servants’ pensions similar to the method used in the private sector. For Grolier, the government is pursuing an “austerity policy even more assiduously than the preceding government. Now that we know this, it’s up to us to change the balance of forces in our favor.”

For her part, Bernadette Groison, the general secretary of the biggest teachers’ union, the FSU, warns that the status quo is “not possible.” “If a left government does not support government service and the civil servants, they’re going to dishearten the civil servants.”

“It may be more animated.”

Maylise Lebranchu expects a social conference that “may be more animated” than last year’s. “It won’t be tougher. There’ll be more debate. But basically, it’s from the debate that the coming negotiations will be born…” With her declaration of a civil service wage freeze prolonged into 2014, the civil service minister is contributing to the animation…

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