FRANCE – The French pensions reform bill was presented to the General Assembly today for approval, in spite of continued national strikes by public sector workers in protest at the proposals.

The bill, which was passed by the council of ministers in May, will now be debated by the Assembly for the next month, with the final amended bill expected in the middle of July. Some 10,000 amendments will be discussed.

French public sector workers, however, have not given up hope that their protests will be answered. Teachers and transport workers went on strike across the country today to demonstrate against the reforms which will see their contribution periods increased in line with those of private sector workers.

On television channel RTL last night, social affairs minister Francois Fillon criticised those opposed to the reforms. “Essentially it is those who do not want to accept the argument of equality,” he said. “It is a must that even the French open their eyes and looks around them to see what is happening. There is no other European country that has chosen a contribution period that is so modest.” Fillon pointed out that many other countries had less generous pension systems than that proposed by prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin at the moment.

Public sector minister Jean-Paul Delevoye added his criticism saying: “Our country has not understood the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in.” France faces a pensions funding gap of 10 billion euros by the year 2020.