The controversial and unpopular pension reform plan has become official law in France, as President Nicolas Sarkozy claims victory and the opposition Socialists vow to repeal it.
The reform raises the minimum retirement age to 62
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the national minimum retirement age officially became law on Wednesday after the country's constitutional court rejected a challenge to it.
Sarkozy wasted no time in signing the bill on Wednesday, just hours after the court ruling. He said in a statement that while he heard the concerns expressed by opponents during the debate, it was his "duty" to ensure the pension fund's integrity.
"With this law, our redistributive pension system has been saved," he said. "French citizens can now be assured that they can count on their retirement and that pension payments will be maintained."
Sarkozy's right-of-center government insisted the reform, which raises the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full retirement age from 65 to 67, was necessary to fill a major budget gap as France's population ages and few workers are paying into the system. The law will gradually come into effect in July 2011 and will be fully enacted by 2018.
Massive strikes and protests against the reform disrupted society
Socialists vow a repeal
Opposition Socialists and other parties asked the country's highest court to examine the constitutionality of the law on November 2, saying it contradicted France's principles of equality. The court rejected the challenge, but the Socialists have vowed to repeal the law if they win the next presidential election in 2012.
"The president is confusing appearance with reality, he thinks that by putting his head down and charging forward without listening, he's showing courage," said Socialist leader Martine Aubry. "It would have been courage to put in place a reform that really solves the problem of retirement."
As the reform was in debate in the legislature, massive protests and nationwide strikes crippled the country's transportation system and all but shut down the oil industry, leaving many gas stations without fuel for cars.
Unions have called for another day of strikes on November 23, but it was unclear how many would take part, as the public opposition to the bill was running out of steam toward the end of the debate.
Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner