Bogus couples dodge hard life

TEACHERS in France are posing as couples to avoid being posted to schools in problem areas.

French teachers have civil service status, and their posts are allocated by the education ministry. Requests for appointments or transfers to specific areas depend on points awarded according to criteria such as length of service and marital status.

Under a new law, life partners, including gay couples, who sign a personal partnership contract can enjoy the same tax and benefits as married couples.

Increasing numbers of teachers are entering bogus Pactes civil de solidarite (Pacs) to avoid being sent to schools in areas such as Creteil, a deprived education authority next to Paris where nearly 30 per cent of teachers start their careers. Of the 14,000 Pacs concluded by the end of March, about 2,000 were between, or included, secondary teachers.

Before the contract was introduced in October, there would be a flurry of teacher spring weddings - the rate boosted by the bonus points that arriage added to the job allocation scale.

According to the newspaper Liberation, adverts from teachers urgently seeking Pacs partners have appeared on the Internet and in teacher-training institutes. The dodge seems particularly strong in Aix-Marseille, and of greatest interest to newly-qualified teachers whose points score is low.

Teachers who have not resorted to the Pacs route are indignant because of their increased risk of being sent to a difficult area.

The unions are playing down the issue. The SNES, the main secondary union in whose Internet chat-room requests for Pacs partners have appeared, said the pact was a legal right. It denied there was no evidence that it led to more abuse than before.

Pacs partners are not obliged to live together, though they usually do, and the contracts are popular with gay people. Provisions cover joint taxation after three years, social security, inheritance advantages, and rights to claim time off for "family" emergencies.

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