FRANCE - President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that negotiations on pension reform will start in April in a bid to rein in France's ballooning pension deficit.
In a meeting with union representatives, Sarkozy outlined a plan which will see negotiations ending between July and August and a proposal sent to Parliament in September. The president plans to have the reform approved this autumn.
He said: "Considering that the measures we will adopt will need some time to have an effect, we can no longer defer decisions, if we want to save our pensions system."
According to data from the Conseil d'orientation des retraites, the state pension deficit is forecast to reach €10.7bn (US$14.6bn) in 2010. In 2008 the deficit stood at €5.6bn and in 2009 at €8.2bn.
Sarkozy did not enter into the specifics of what elements of the pension systems could be reformed. However, he said: "I will not accept that the pay-as-you-go system will be called into question, nor that pensions in payment will be reduced under any circumstances."
In a joint statement, trade unions Confédération française démocratique du travail, Confédération générale du travail, Fédération Syndicale Unitaire, Solidaires and Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes said: "The calendar for reform is very tight. We will advocate a debate that takes into account all issues [revolving around pensions], including employment, public and private sector pensions, the level of pensions and its financing."
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