FRANCE - The council of ministers today approved the pension reform bill, which president Jacques Chirac described as ‘urgent’ and ‘fair’.

Social affairs minister Francois Fillon presented the reforms to the council this morning, claiming in an interview with the press afterwards that “the reform will make the_French retirement system the most generous and the most interdependent out of all the European retirement systems”.

Fillon said that he had waited impatiently for the bill to be put to the council of ministers, and said that there was “no alternative to the reform proposed”.

Chirac added: “In guaranteeing the French people material security after their professional lives, the reform is liberating those on modest salaries from the risk of poverty. …It is the responsibility of the government to act, and to act without delay, to avoid having to take brutal measures one day.” The president went on to call the reform ‘just’ and ‘a pact between the generations.’

His rhetoric, however, will have little affect on France’s unions which are planning yet more strikes. Their largest gripe with the reform is that of increasing public sector workers’ contribution periods in order to be entitled to a full pension.

If the bill is passed by the general assembly, public sector workers will have to work for 40 years in line with private sector workers, in order to obtain a full pension.

Yesterday national strikes disabled around 70% of air traffic in Paris, and 40-60% of teachers walked out. Further strikes are threatened for next Tuesday, June 3.