French ex-minister forced to give up perks

10th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French ex-minister and leader of a Christian values party was forced on Thursday to give up a 9,500-euro salary for a job as head of a task force after a row erupted over her perks.

Christine Boutin, an ultra-conservative politician who opposes abortion and gay marriage, was named in April by President Nicolas Sarkozy to lead the task force on globalisation.

She has been receiving 9,500 euros (11,500 dollars) per month for the job on top of her pension benefits as a former minister and member of parliament, for a monthly total of 17,500 euros paid by the state.

The government initially defended the paycheck but Labour Minister Eric Woerth said on Thursday he would ask the 66-year-old politician to relinquish some perks during these belt-tightening times.

Boutin later backed down, agreeing to give up the extra pay.

"I have decided to carry out this mission free of charge, by giving up my 9,500 euros per month," she told France 2 television.

But she also said she had been unfairly singled out for attack, insisting that "there are many people in this situation, who sooner or later will face the same problem".

"I am setting a legal precedent," she said.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon's office issued a statement saying he "welcomes the decision by Christine Boutin to give up all pay for the mission she is carrying out on the social impact of globalisation".

Fillon also said that from now on there would be a single common framework for the wages paid for such government advisory jobs.

The appointment, whose details were revealed in the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine, also came with a chauffeur-driven car, staff and an office in an upscale area of Paris.

National Assembly speaker Bernard Accoyer had earlier told Boutin that she should give up her parliament pension during her mandate as a well-paid adviser to the president on globalisation.

A former housing minister who was dropped from Sarkozy's cabinet last year, Boutin leads the Christian Democrat party which is close to the president's right-wing UMP party.

Boutin complained last month that her "ideas" were not being taken into account and suggested she could stand in the 2012 presidential vote to give them more prominence.

Opposition Socialists charged that Boutin's appointment was "fake" and suggested it was part of a calculation by Sarkozy to keep allies happy.

Boutin, who ran in the 2002 presidential election picking up less than two percent, said she was "outraged" by the "suggestion that I was bought off to keep silent".

© 2010 AFP

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