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Court decision to hit AGIRC

France’s retirement regime, AGIRC, has been ordered to pay around Ffr3bn (e457m) in back payments by the French court of appeal to families whose pension rights were cut in 1994.
The case, involving France’s familles nombreuses – families with three children or more, hinged on a decision by social partners to reduce pension top-ups for families to a ceiling of 20%, according to Arnauld D’Yvoire of the Paris-based Observatoire des Retraites.
He says: “Prior to the 1994 ruling, if you had three children you received an extra 10% in pensions, rising to 30% for families with up to seven children.”
“The French appeal court saw this as a questioning of the points system on which AGIRC is based.”
D’Yvoire believes employees with large families who left the AGIRC system before 1994 will be able to claim back payment.
“Those who left afterwards will probably remain under the new rule system,” he adds.
The ruling is an ominous precursor for AGIRC, which along with sister regime ARRCO, will hear on January 20 if it has defended its status as part of France’s national retirement system before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Strasbourg.
A ruling on the potentially explosive Podesta case will be made by the Advocate General, following a public hearing which took place on December 13.
The case involving French national Jean-Marie Podesta hangs on the principle of equality between the sexes, enshrined in article 119 of the Treaty of Rome.
Podesta claims he was discriminated against when seeking to collect his wife’s pension after her death in May 1993. He was told he could not do so until the legal male retirement age, but he argued that, had his wife survived, she could have taken her pension at 50, the former retirement age for women – before 1990’s Barber European court ruling equalised the pensionable age.
At the hearing, ARRCO and AGIRC argued that because they were not professional retirement systems, they should not be covered by EC ‘jurisprudence’.
“As no direct link can be made between employment and retirement payment in France, so the principle of equality can have no bearing on this case,” noted their defence.
However, the European Commission representation pointed out that France’s ARRCO/AGIRC retirement system discriminates by allowing spouse benefits to be paid to women at 60 and men only at the age of 65, so the Treaty of Rome should be applied.
A spokesman for the ECJ, says: “On January 20, the Advocate General will give his opinion on the case, then the case will go into deliberation and, following that, there will be a judgment.” Hugh Wheelan

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