Fun numbers

When Cyril joined France’s state rail operator, the SNCF, he looked forward to stable employment until his retirement at the age of 50.

A few years ago the rules changed and he discovered that he would have to work until he is 57 to get a state pension that he reckons will be about €30,000 a year.

OK. His current pay?

The prospect is intolerable to Cyril, 46, who declined to give his last name. He got his first job at the SNCF at the age of 16 and now earns €36,000 a year as a high-speed train driver.

He wants a pension of 80% of pay for 30 years – actuarially at least?

You can see the incentive to change this, no?

30 comments on “Fun numbers

  1. Clearly Cyril works part-time. From the replies:

    SNCF website (in French!) says that the basic salary for TGV drivers is 48,000 euros a year. They will get more for weekends and unsocial hours. Still less than ours get, but with other benefits including cheap housing provided by the company and company run holiday sites. Free travel for your extended family and a pension of 2/3 of your final salary (calculated from the final 6 months pay). So a bit more than your informant claims.

  2. Now he fears that the latest reform being dreamt up by President Macron could force him to continue until he is 64 — and then get a lower pension.

    Top tip: if you are trying to get sympathy from others, don’t use the line “I fear that I will have to live like you”

  3. Surely existing commitments to individuals should be honoured, however outrageous they are. A contract is a contract and the state should be setting a good example, shouldn’t it?

    If you’re new in, that’s the people to start the new system with.

  4. BiG: That’s basically how the pension scheme worked with my former employer. My pension was very good as a long-term employee when I retired, but later joiners didn’t fare so well. To the point that a younger friend still working there and already on a worse pension scheme had that pension scheme closed, i.e. no more contributions, and a new, even worse one, was opened for continuation.

    Of course governments just change the rules when it suits them, even retrospectively in some cases.

  5. The moral of the story, BiG, is don’t enter into contracts with governments. A contract is a legal instrument & governments can change the law.

  6. My private final salary pension is long gone. I hear and basically accept the reasons why, but it still is a bit hard to take given the private/public sector pension apartheid that has grown up in the 20 years since. I will be 60 next year and I know people who retired at 55 on index linked civil service pensions beside which my former final salary pension seems parsimonious by comparison. These pensions I am paying for directly out of current taxes and I am basically expected to keep on paying post retirement (whenever that actually turns out to be) so these index linked pensions can continue.

    Government broke promises to me so why should promises to civil servants be sacrosanct? Sorry I just can’t see it.

    As far as France is concerned though, what is any right thinking Englishman to do apart from stock up on the popcorn?

  7. “Surely existing commitments to individuals should be honoured, however outrageous they are. A contract is a contract and the state should be setting a good example, shouldn’t it?”

    Did Cyril and the French government sign a contract when he was 16 saying exactly what he would get for his entire working life, and pensionable life thereafter? Or did he just join an organisation with a set of rules that could and did change over time? After all his pay isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago is it? So presumably he doesn’t mind when his employer pays him more, but gets uptight when changes go against him.

    On your basis no government employee should ever be paid more than when they sign up, because that was what they agreed at the time and nothing must ever change from that day forward.

  8. If you’re new in, that’s the people to start the new system with.

    AIUI French governments have been trying to make this sort of reform for years but every time they proposed something there was a massive strike and they backed down.

  9. Why the fvck do our train, tube, tram and metro drivers seem to get paid so much more than their equivalents in France? GPs etc as well? Is it because of Brexit?

  10. @ BraveFart
    Because Harold Wilson depended on the support of Frank Cousins and even Tony Blair couldn’t do without that of Bob Crow so they pandered to them and it takes decades for moderate inflation to alleviate systematic overpayments in contractual wages. There is some hope that RMT’s stranglehold is fading as South West Trains plan to run 50% during the next strike but it will take a generation to cleanse the Augean stables.

  11. “Why the fvck do our train, tube, tram and metro drivers seem to get paid so much more than their equivalents in France? GPs etc as well? Is it because of Brexit?”

    Rail workers get paid based on how much money there is. When you’re a monopoly (like the RMT) and you can go on strike and destroy the whole operation, you take all the money that’s left after costs. That’s why train drivers earn so much. They’re rent-seeking motherfuckers.

  12. Großer: A contract is a contract and the state should be setting a good example, shouldn’t it? If you’re new in, that’s the people to start the new system with.

    I like this idea quite a bit. Perhaps we should be granted an exemption on all laws enacted from the date of our conception.

  13. Mark said:
    “Government broke promises to me so why should promises to civil servants be sacrosanct?”

    Yes. And it’s good to put a bit of uncertainty into government contracts; discourage people from working for them.

  14. john77 said:
    “South West Trains plan to run 50% during the next strike”

    Yes, I was impressed with that. I’ve got to go up to London next week and thought it was going to be dreadful, but it looks like it isn’t going to be much worse than their usual mediocre service.

  15. RichardT, it is worse for me. I’ve got a ticket for Otello at the ROH and under the current SWT arrangements the last train to my neck of the woods leaves at 10:42. Since the opera ends at 10:35ish, I ain’t gonna get from Covent Garden to Waterloo in time unless I leave before the third act.

    I really don’t want to take the car since negotiating the various zones, finding a place to park that will still be open when I leave and then driving back, especially if I’ve had a glass or two of Pinot Noir, is going to be a pain, but the only other alternative is staying in a hotel.

    Booking for the spring season at ROH is coming up but I’m feeling ambivalent about spending the money in case the bloody trains are still effed up. When something you rely on becomes unreliable, it takes a while to restore the trust.

  16. Kevin,

    Without wishing either to belittle your issues or to suggest that ability to get to the ROH might constitute a first world problem, two points come to mind.

    Firstly, SWT doesn’t care about you. That may be harsh, but I’d put good money on it being true. They care about their season ticket volumes. Or at least that’s what I would do if I were the CEO or CFO. Where is the bulk of my revenue coming from and how do I protect it? Your use case is never ever going to feature.

    Secondly, it’s not about you anyway: it’s about ROH. 🙂
    I’d suspect that a BIG chunk of their ticket revenue (not sure what proportion of their total that actually is and it may not be that large…) will be from other people like you. They’ll notice that quick enough, but unfortunately, I rather doubt RMT/ASLEF will be brought up short when faced with falling attendance at the Royal Opera House. It’s possible even that that might encourage them…

  17. Rail workers get paid based on how much money there is. When you’re a monopoly (like the RMT) and you can go on strike and destroy the whole operation, you take all the money that’s left after costs. That’s why train drivers earn so much. They’re rent-seeking motherfuckers.

    I remember listening to an interview with a senior Labour figure who was around during and just after the war discussing the nationalisation of the mines. Apparently Labour had been reluctant to carry out the nationalisation but was pestered in to it by the NUM.

    Obviously I paraphrase – after the nationalisation was completed they asked the NUM leader “what now?”. The response was something like “that’s your problem, and now, about that pay rise….”.

    And that’s always been the problem with our unions and nationalisation, its about blackmailing/rent seeking.

  18. The French are apparently constitutionally addicted to taking to the streets and striking etc at the possibility of the thought of a drop of a hat.

    The result is the place is ungovernable. And impossible to do business in; as one of the business owners in Normandy told me “France is for tourism, not business”.

    Bizarrely, they elect a government and then a section of society representing something in the low single digits of the population goes on strike – not against their employer, but against the government of the day. Democracy in action, eh?

    Idiots.

  19. BiND, Dunno if it is true, but I have heard that the miners were offered the mines, but refused, preferring nationalisation instead. Of course there may have been some guff about socialism, but actually it was the only way they could extract more money than a free market would produce.

  20. There was a welsh mine that the miners took over or bought out, ran up until a few years ago, most probably a much better planned decline and close down than the NCB ever managed

  21. When Cyril joined France’s state rail operator, the SNCF, he looked forward to stable employment until his retirement at the age of 50.

    A few years ago the rules changed and he discovered that he would have to work until he is 57 to get a state pension that he reckons will be about €30,000 a year.

    The prospect is intolerable to Cyril, 46, who declined to give his last name.

    You’d have to have a heart of stone to read the above without bursting into laughter.

  22. There was a welsh mine that the miners took over or bought out, ran up until a few years ago, most probably a much better planned decline and close down than the NCB ever managed

    Tower, if my memory serves me right.

  23. Kevin B said:
    “I’ve got a ticket for Otello at the ROH and under the current SWT arrangements the last train to my neck of the woods leaves at 10:42. Since the opera ends at 10:35ish, I ain’t gonna get from Covent Garden to Waterloo in time unless I leave before the third act.”

    Ah, even when they’re running a “full” service, my last train leaves London at 9:35pm, so I wouldn’t ever expect to be able to get back after any sort of evening event.

    Sorry to hear about your problem. If I really want to go to something in the evening, I book an hotel. Have you tried lastminute.com or Travelodge?

  24. PG, I realise mine isn’t not the worst problem caused by the strike but even the commuters are having a hard time with most trains stopping at every station and always crowded. Anyway, I just fancied a whinge and since I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, Tim’s gaff will have to do.

    Richard, I’m toying with staying up there but I had other things planned for Tuesday morning. Oh well, it’s only money.

  25. “Surely existing commitments to individuals should be honoured, however outrageous they are. A contract is a contract and the state should be setting a good example, shouldn’t it?”

    That’s an argument that can be made. The counter argument is that the pension structure was put in place when people were dropping dead a good 10 years or so earlier than they are now. So long as the workers agree to drop dead in line with that timescale, there isn’t the affordability problem.

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