FRANCE – France’s state pension reserve fund is to have an injection of 500 million euros, thanks to the French state's sale of its 10.9% stake in Crédit Lyonnais to BNP Paribas for 2.2 billion euros.

Finance minister Francis Mer told reporters on Sunday that 1.7 billion euros from the sale would be used to lighten the debt load of state-owned companies, and the remaining 500 million euros will go into the state pension reserve fund.

The pension reserve fund (Fonds de réserve des retraites, FRR), which is expected to receive funding to the tune of 150 billion euros by 2020, was set up in 1999 to buttress the "pay-as-you-go" state pension system. The 500 million euros will be added to the eight billion euros currently in the fund.

The announcement coincides with strikes today by employees of French railway operators SNCF and RATP, Air France, France Telecom, and utilities firms Electricite de France and Gaz de France over the increasing privatisation of state-owned companies, and threats to their pensions as a result.

Employees at GdF and EdF currently belong to the IEG scheme – the pension system for electric and gas industries in France – noted for its generous benefits and special arrangements.

But when the two companies are privatised in 2003 and 2004 the IEG scheme will cease to exist, and their 180,000 employees will have to join France’s second-pillar pay-as-you-go scheme, which unions claim will result in smaller pensions, and worse benefits.