Through an engagement letter dated from the 26 January 2021, the Minister of Labour, Work and Integration, the Minister of Health and Solidarity, the Deputy Minister to the Minister of Ecological Transition in charge of Transport, the Deputy Minister to the Minister of the Economy, Finance and Recovery in charge of Public Accounts and the Secretary of State under the Minister of Labour, Work and Integration in charge of Pensions and Health at Work, requested the Departmental Council of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CGEDD) and the Inspectorate General of Social Welfare (IGAS) to evaluate the end-of-service leave (CFA) in the driving sector and propose development paths to social partners. The CFA is a system allowing drivers with certain number of years’ driving to retire early in the form of leave.
This mission is part of the extension of a collective bargaining agreement of 19 April 2017 countersigned by the Secretary of State for Transport, Sea and Fisheries, which, in particular, provided for a renovation of the scheme from 1 January 2021. In practice, the social partners have deferred negotiations mainly due to the project of a universal pension regime, the impact of which on the end-of-service leave they feel unable to measure.
The State, which had to determine the conditions of its financial participation on the basis of these negotiations, guaranteed in a letter dated 8 October 2019 that its contribution would be maintained for three years. In this letter, it also highlighted its commitment to the modernization of the end-of-service leave.
Created in 1996, following a collective dispute, the end-of-activity leave allows drivers of commercial transport who have reached the required age to benefit, for five years, from an early cessation of activity prior to their retirement under the general and administrative conditions (characteristics of the vehicle driven and length of service in the trade).
Following collective bargaining in the driving and auxiliary activities sector, two sector end-of-service leave systems were put in place :
• One concerns the goods and removal driving and funds and securities transport sector. This leave, known as goods CFA, is managed by the national joint management fund of the end-of-service leave (FONGECFA - Transport). Since it started, 40,268 people have benefitted from it ;
• The other covers the intercity road passenger transport sector. This leave, known as Drivers of Passenger Vehicles CFA, is governed by the national joint management fund of the end-of-service leave (AGECFA-Drivers of Passenger Vehicles). Since its creation, there have been 4,123 recipients.
During this leave, beneficiaries receive an allowance, usually 75% of their previous gross salary, financed by employers, employees and the State. The recipient is neither an employee nor a jobseeker or a pensioner. During the leave, statutory and supplementary pension rights continue to be built up.
For 2020 entrants into the scheme, with an average gross allowance of €1,969 for the goods CFA and €1,970 for the Drivers of Passenger Vehicles CFA, income is higher than the seniors replacement income. The rate of benefit, as well as the duration of the leave, are also more favorable than the other early retirement schemes studied by the mission.
These leaves, created to respond to professional wear, are not very distributive. Over a generation of employees reaching the required age, on average for both CFAs, only 30% of contributors are eligible. Of these eligible employees, 70% will actually become beneficiaries. Due to the implementation methods of the CFA, which differ from one fund to another, these averages conceal disparities, with redistribution being higher for the goods sector than for the Drivers of Passenger Vehicles sector. In any case, the objectives of equity and compensation for hardship of the scheme are not achieved. Indeed, while the driving professions have evolved, the physical constraints remain, particularly in the area of manual work. The claims record for employees in the sector is high, with 6.5% of accidents at work in 2019, almost twice the average rate.
Moreover, although working time has decreased over the past quarter century, it remains significantly higher than the national average, with a monthly duration of over 180 hours, and atypical working hours are common. Lastly, driver autonomy has been replaced by embedded computer systems allowing real-time monitoring of vehicles in a context of denser road traffic and increased demands from shippers to meet delivery deadlines. The profession, which was active during the COVID 19 crisis, feels that there is less consideration for the job of a driver.
Since it started, the end-of-service leave scheme has been administered by a private welfare organization that examines the applications, and pays the allowance and social contributions. This body is also responsible for checking compliance with the rules of solidarity set by the sector, which stipulated that departures, at the exception of exceptional cases of an economic nature, had to result in the effective hiring of a contributor to the scheme. With regard to the annual projections of performance over the last four years, this intergenerational solidarity objective, verified exclusively at the time of entry into the scheme, has been partially achieved. Indeed, hiring has been effective over the last four years for 64% to 84% of departures in CFA.
Today, the financial issues are different from one fund to another, with AGECFA having positive results and equity. In contrast, the results and equity of FONGECFA are negative. This situation, in a context of health and economic crisis, has led social partners to introduce a system of discounts and surcharges and to establish the principle of a points-based vesting system for FONGECFA, through the agreement of 17 July 2020.
The state subsidy provided for the creation of the scheme is significant, with more than a third of the funding. It essentially corresponds to 80% of the allowances paid to the oldest beneficiaries and the related sickness and old-age social contributions.
Five-year projections of accounting results are very erratic from one year to the next due, in particular, to the fact that the management tools are not very oriented towards prospecting. In the future, to better identify the financial and distribution issues of the CFA, the steering tools could be improved :
• First, by capitalizing on available but unprocessed information such as the age of the contributors and length of service in the profession upon entry to the CFA. The adoption of a points system, already provided for in principle by the goods sector, would allow an improvement in the demographic monitoring of contributors ;
• Second, this system, which establishes individualized monitoring of contributors, has the advantage of facilitating access to the scheme for drivers, who would thus be exempted from having to reconstruct their entire career ;
• Lastly, the introduction of a survey of contributing employees from 2022 would allow an analysis of their propensity to benefit from the scheme, thus providing visibility on the number of future CFA beneficiaries.
This improvement of steering tools is a major challenge for the social partners and the State in a context where there are real uncertainties that create vulnerability, particularly on the number of entries into the scheme in the coming years.
In response to legal developments or the economic situation, the terms and conditions for granting leave have been regularly adapted. Nevertheless, over time, despite the development of social policies and the desire of the public authorities to reduce early retirement by relying particularly on a significant financial contribution, the structure of the leave has not changed.
The abovementioned collective bargaining agreement of 17 April 2017, which records the non-payment of this contribution but the payment of the lump-sum social security contribution and the retroactive exemption from this contribution, is a step that promotes the renovation of the CFA.
The mission, which has a dual objective of assisting the social partners and helping them to make decisions for the government, took place under two specific circumstances : the health context linked to COVID 19 and the preconditions set by the social partners outside the scope of their mandate.
These prerequisites of the social partners, combined with a mistrust of the mission’s objectives, have not made it possible to establish a cordial working environment, including the participation of representatives of the profession, making it more difficult to ensure ownership of the proposed paths. They also did not promote the fluidity of relations with the scheme management body.
The development paths proposed by the mission are designed, above all, as tools for ensuring both sustainability and a better distribution of the scheme and to confirm the central role of the sector. The proposed scenarios, whether parametric or more innovative in nature, should be read together or not, so that the social dialogue can fully structure the new end-of-career arrangements for drivers of the road transportation sector.
The parametric scenarios developed by the mission are not intended to hamper the plans that the social partners could identify. They are based, as for all the proposals, on the findings and analyses resulting from available data, comparative studies and field visits conducted by the mission. The main tools concern scenarios of different natures :
• The first scenario is to change the eligibility conditions for the CFA, by varying the required length of service as a driver, and the related number of hours worked ;
• The second scenario consists in reducing the duration of the end-of-service leave, coupled with the possibility of benefitting successively from the CFA and the statutory early retirement schemes especially since drivers request, much more than the average policyholder, early retirement for a long career ;
• The third scenario explores the possibility of a CFA of variable duration, according to different criteria, the most important of which is length of service ;
• Lastly, the level of the allowance, in relation to other comparable situations, deserves to be reviewed.
The other scenarios respond to the diversity of the driving professions. They take into account the initial ambition of the negotiators to improve the occupational health of drivers through preventive and remedial actions in addition to the classic end-of-career arrangements. The main scenarios therefore concern :
• Taking account of the arduous nature of work, based on that carried out by the sector in accordance with the principle of a national scheme and the fragmentation of companies in the sector ;
• The reduction of work activity by mixing reduced working time and a part-time CFA.
In addition, the introduction of a points-based system ensures a smooth flow in the implementation of the reflections proposed by the mission. The social partners could benefit by mapping out operational paths from it.
Lastly, in all cases, depending on the directions taken by the social partners, work on the methods of transition from the current CFA to a renovated system remains unavoidable.