FRANCE – Major strikes today in France over pension reform disabled 70% of air traffic out of Paris, but social affairs minister Francois Fillon says “negotiations have already been carried out”.

During questions in a general assembly of the French government today, Fillon called those wanting to reopen talks with the government about the reform “false”, saying that negotiations had taken place and now was time for the debate in Parliament.

“They are not being sincere, because behind the word ‘renegotiation’ masks, on the contrary, the wish to maintain a status quo …. which will weigh on our economy and on employment,” said Fillon.

Fillon also claimed those wishing to renegotiate were merely against harmonising of contribution durations – the reform proposals include an increase in the contributory period of public sector employees to bring them in line with private sector employees.

“There has been a time for reflection, there has been a time for negotiation, and now is time for a parliamentary debate,” he concluded.

The French government, however, is becoming increasingly concerned by the number of strikes in response to the pensions reform – an issue which caused the conservative government to lose power in 1997.

In addition to 70% of flights being paralysed today, between 40-60% of teachers walked out, which with exams looming is adding further concern, and has raised the question of whether non-teaching civil servants should be transferred to sit in for them.

The situation looks unlikely to improve, however, with a further strike for transport and civil service employees being threatened for June 3.