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'Storm brewing' says French analyst

FRANCE - President Nicolas Sarkozy's announcement of changes to the special pension arrangements for certain categories public employees will trigger strikes, analyst Phillip Silitschanu from the Aite Group told IPE.

He spoke as negotiations on changes to the privileged pension arrangements enjoyed by employees in some areas of the public sector got underway today.

Pension provision for workers with national railways SNCF, Électricité de France, Gaz de France and others enjoying so-called special regimes will be brought into line with other public service employees, Sarkozy had promised.

"I do not want the French people paying for the excesses of a few any more," Sarkozy said.

"There will be strikes, that goes without saying," Silitschanu said. "We are seeing the beginning of a nasty storm brewing."

However, Silitschanu said he did not expect a major breakdown in the public sector.

"That is neither what the government nor the workers want to happen, nor would they allow it to happen."

Sarkozy made only a brief mention of the issue in a recent speech that also covered other social and foreign policy areas.

"I am actually not surprised he skimmed over the details of the special schemes," the analyst pointed out. "This is not a topic to be taken lightly, and not something which can be outlined easily or clearly in a few minutes during a speech."

A recent survey showed three-quarters of French people were for the abolition of special pension arrangements for railway and utility sector workers.

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