FRANCE – Newly re-elected president Jacques Chirac has told the French social affairs and employment minister to start urgent talks with unions and employers about reforms to the pensions system to avert possible social conflict, according to the Guardian newspaper.

But the French employers association, Medef, says the election candidates tried to turn the issue of complementary pensions reform into a major part of their manifestos to win votes when in reality they were never really threatened.

“An agreement to look at the pensions system in France and how it could best be reformed was signed last year by employers, politicians from all sides and unions alike. The agreement is due for renegotiation at the end of this year. This was never in doubt. No matter who had won the election, it would have been honoured,” explains a spokesman there.

Medef accuses the president of melodramatics but is keen to see if he will convert his pre-election words into action. “It’s alright telling ministers to open dialogue but we haven’t heard him mention the state reserve fund again. He also said he advocated the creation of French-style funded pension schemes. We’re still waiting to hear how that will develop,” says the spokesman.

Nevertheless, the spokesman says Medef is ready to take part in any negotiations and eventual reforms, whatever form they take. “We are not looking for conflict but a reform package that ensures that retirees in France receive adequate levels of pensions income, whether state, occupational or private.”