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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Sarkozy announces huge job cuts
French President Nicolas Sarkozy speaking in Nantes
Mr Sarkozy said he wanted a smaller and better paid public sector
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced more than 22,000 job cuts in the civil service in order to reform the country's bulging public sector.

He said thousands of employees retiring next year would not be replaced.

The move comes a day after Mr Sarkozy outlined plans to overhaul the pension benefits of 500,000 mainly public sector workers.

France's transport unions have described the plans as unacceptable, calling for a strike next month.

Attempts to reform pension privileges have brought down previous French governments.

'Cultural revolution'

Speaking at a public management institute in Nantes, President Sarkozy said it was time to make France's 5.2 million-strong public sector more efficient.

To not waste a single euro in public funds, that is the ideal that we must strive for
French President Nicolas Sarkozy

"I want a public service that is smaller, better paid and with better career prospects," he said.

"What I am proposing is a cultural revolution, a revolution for changing the way we think, for changing behaviour."

Mr Sarkozy's announcement means that next year one in three retiring public sector workers will not be replaced. That figure could rise in the future.

He said the state could no longer afford so many employees, adding that the goal was "to not waste a single euro in public funds".

France's civil servants have traditionally enjoyed comfortable working hours, good pay and job security, the BBC's Emma Jane Kirby in Paris says.

Angry reaction

The announcement came a day after Mr Sarkozy said he planned to reform pension privileges.

He said he wanted to cut back the packages given to employees such as train drivers and electricity workers, who until now could retire early.

Trade unions reacted angrily, describing the plans as "totally unbalanced".

The country's major transport unions on Wednesday called for strike action.

If union members support the call, France's rail networks could grind to a halt, our correspondent says.

She says the last time a government tried to interfere with pension benefits in 1995, France was crippled by three weeks of mass strikes and street protests.

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