The senators, who will meet Thursday, March 2 in public session to discuss the pension reform project, have benefited since 1905 from a special pension management and payment scheme. Different from that of the National Assembly, endowed with autonomous governance, it is the subject of criticism, at a time when the government wants the abolition of special regimes – with the exception of those of the Paris Opera , the Comédie-Française and parliamentarians.
The pension fund for former senators is entirely managed by the Luxembourg Palace. By virtue of the separation of powers, only the office of the Senate, made up of elected officials and renewed every three years, can decide on changes to the regime created, as explained on the Senate website, to "compensate for the rupture suffered in the professional career [of senators] by virtue of their election, and to guarantee them a retirement income".
The President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher (Les Républicains), has defended this independence for several years in the name of the "importance that parliamentarians are not, whatever the country, directly under pressure from the executive", as the senator from Yvelines declared it on France Inter, at the beginning of February.
Substantial financial reserves
The fund is financed "by a contribution from senators, an employer contribution from the Senate and a levy on the income generated by the financial assets of the fund", it is specified on the Senate website, which emphasizes that it does not need " appeal to financial transfers from the State or other special regimes”.
The income generated by the investment of the assets accumulated since 1905 enabled the fund to build up equity of nearly 620 million euros at the end of the 2021 financial year, according to the latest report on the accounts of the Senate. There is also a Senate staff pension fund, for the benefit of non-elected employees of the institution, whose reserves were around 736 million euros, we learn from the same source.
Thanks to this surplus fund, senators can receive a comfortable pension. In 2019, the Senate services told Liberation that after a six-year term, "the amount of the retirement pension [was] on average 2,190 euros net". The presence of an elected member on the benches was often longer, the average pension paid by the Senate represented 3,856 euros net the same year. The age at which senators can claim their pension is set at 62 but, with no obligation to leave in the event of re-election, the actual average retirement age is 72, according to a figure communicated to the 'Agence France-Presse by the Senate.
To defend the continuation of this special regime and guarantee that the financial reserves of the Senate are not absorbed into the State budget, Gérard Larcher highlights the three reforms adopted by the office in 2003, 2010 and 2014 to follow those decided for society as a whole and lead to rules "similar to those applied to civil servants".
Until 2010, a dual contribution system allowed senators to receive a full pension after twenty-two and a half years in office. Since then, this system has given way to a complementary points system. The contribution period has been gradually increased to forty-two years from January 1, 2021 and will continue to increase steadily, to forty-three years by 2033.
The left pushes for a 'reflection' on the regime
The President of the Luxembourg Palace also affirms that the chamber will transpose for its own pension scheme the new rules which will be adopted in the reform currently under discussion, bringing in particular to 64 instead of 62 the legal age of departure. . "The senators have already done it with each pension reform, they have adjusted the age, the principles of contribution", he recalled at the beginning of February on France Inter.
However, some of the left-wing senators consider that a more global "reflection" on this pension system must be initiated, at a time when certain special schemes are targeted by the reform and in the name of "exemplary behavior" and "transparency" due to their function. At the initiative of ecologists, joined by their socialist and communist peers, a motion for a resolution – by definition non-binding – aimed at reforming the pension fund of former senators was tabled, citing the example of the National Assembly, which has "aligned its pension plan with common civil service law since January 1, 2018".
In their text, the elected officials believe that "if efforts are required of the population, parliamentarians must share these same efforts" and also wish to "prohibit investments from the fund's reserves in fossil energy projects". Nothing says for the moment that a major overhaul of this special regime will take place.