Pensions: cutting work accident contributions to fund part of the reform, wrongly a good idea?

The executive authority often repeats this in the pension file, categorically excludes the increase of social insurance premiums in order not to increase the cost of labor. According to the government, the revenue from the reforms will cover the pension system’s estimated deficit (€13.5 billion) by 2030, but they will also provide room for maneuver (€4.2 billion). Measures valued at €4.8 billion: early retirement, long career and even €1,200 pension for a full career around the minimum wage, taking into account the hardship.

There is therefore a small delta of €600 million between the surplus resulting from the reform and the value of the new entitlements. Wishing “everyone to get their share”, the Prime Minister wants to ask employers for “an additional contribution to pension funding”. “However, we refuse to increase the cost of labor. Therefore, we will symmetrically reduce the employers’ contribution to the scheme for accidents at work and occupational diseases, which is too much,” said Bruno Le Maire. Bruno Le Maire estimated this reduction at €600 million. It is a zero-sum game in terms of contributions for businesses. Accidents at work for – department of occupational diseases (AT/MP), the effects are necessarily different.

A Social Security department with a growing surplus

What are we talking about? AT/MP contributions finance the social security department of the same name. This branch has several missions. It must prevent and reduce occupational risks, recognize claims for the consequences of illnesses or accidents at work, and compensate victims. It is financed exclusively by employers through social insurance contributions. These vary according to the number of accidents occurring in the company or activity sector, with the logic of promotion and promotion of prevention.

From a budget perspective, with the exception of 2020, the AT/MP branch has been notorious for surpluses over the past decade, but this is atypical due to the pandemic. According to the latest Social Security financing law, the branch generated a surplus of about 2 billion euros in 2022 (it spends about 15 billion) and 2.2 billion euros is expected in 2023. This surplus may continue to grow and exceed 3 billion euros. in 2026.

Industrial accidents are ‘more serious’ among the elderly

With this information alone, the idea of ​​sequestering surpluses to fund other policies—here, pension funding—may seem tempting. At a Senate hearing in October, Anne Thiebauld, Cnam’s director of occupational risks, reported a “structural” reduction in the frequency of workplace accidents in 2020 and 2021, neutralizing the period’s partial activity. However, noting that it remains to be seen whether this reduction is “confirmed in the long term”.

For now, the latest statistics are alarming. According to a study published by DARES on November 2, 2019 there were 783,600 accidents at work in France. This statistics department, which depends on the Ministry of Labor, further notes that “accidents for older workers are less frequent but more serious than for younger workers.” Important information on the reforms planned to extend the legal retirement age.

Underestimating the number of accidents and occupational diseases in production

First of all, it should be taken into account that not all industrial accidents and occupational diseases are declared. There is even a special commission on this issue headed by a judge of the Court of Auditors. It submits a report to the government and parliament every three years. In 2021, this commission estimated that the number of industrial accidents or occupational diseases that should be declared and recognized as such is between 1.2 billion and 2.1 billion euros.

Due to the low recognition of industrial accidents and especially occupational diseases, every year the AT/MP branch has to pay the sickness department, which mistakenly assumes them, and the latter is partially financed by the workers. In the latest Social Security funding bill, the government proposed 1.2 billion, the lower end of the range calculated by an independent commission. This amount increases every year. Important clarification: work-related mental illnesses (major depressive disorders, post-traumatic stress syndromes) are not included in this calculation and represent up to 287 million euros in 2020.

“Prevention issues in occupational health are given a very bad signal”

In addition, it is common for trade unions to point out that compensation for occupational diseases is very low in relation to the damage suffered. Analysis shared by Marion Del Sol, professor of law at the University of Rennes, social protection expert. “We already have a system that is not very generous in terms of compensation. We are still on the fixed compensation principle, which by definition is non-integral. “, he emphasizes. According to him, in this context, the proposal to reduce the funds of the AT/MP branch “creates a problem”. “It is a very bad signal given to preventive issues in occupational health. »

The social partners share a number of observations during the full discussion on the next goals and management agreement in the field of accidents at work and occupational diseases. Negotiations are due to conclude in February 2023, at the same time as the National Assembly is due to begin examining the pension reform bill. Regarding the protection afforded to victims, they note “situations of insufficient compensation that can undermine the basis of a system that promises fair compensation.” Regarding the branch’s prevention missions, they emphasize that “allocation of human and financial resources is insufficient in view of current and future challenges.” This joint press release from trade unions and employers’ organizations highlights the need for the branch to be more ambitious and therefore spend more. This comes a month before the government announced on December 8 that it would cut the AT/MP branch’s funds by 600 million.

This issue of the AT/MP branch is one of the highlights even among some parliamentarians, including the presidential majority. So, In a press release, modem MPs promise to be “careful”. the transfer of contributions from the department of industrial accident and occupational disease to the department of old age “does not call into question the financial balance of the management of accidents in production”.

The AT/MP branch can fund an investment fund to prevent professional attrition

Finally, this transfer of 600 million euros is not the only element that could have consequences for the AT/MP branch. On the same day, the government announced the creation of an investment fund of one billion euros over a five-year period to prevent attrition. Its mission would be to fund awareness, prevention and retraining measures. Not knowing very well how to express this fund through the means already implemented by the AT/MP branch. According to the pension reform bill sent to the State Council, the fund will be funded by a donation from the Department of Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases. His again.

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