Women who work in the public sector in Greece will no longer be able to retire at a younger age than men, according to a European Court of Justice ruling made public yesterday that immediately prompted an angry response from unions. In what was an anticipated ruling, the court decided that Greek pension laws, which allow women in the civil service and military a shorter minimum length of service and earlier retirement than their male counterparts, were incompatible with European legislation. According to the Brussels court, Greek legislation created preferential conditions for women, especially mothers, in comparison with their male colleagues but did not tackle any of the problems that women faced in their careers. The Greek government had argued that the more favorable pension conditions were created to compensate for the fact that women had shorter working lives. Unions slammed the court’s decision and the government’s failure to counter the ruling. «Through its handling of the case, the government… has sole responsibility and has to answer the question of whether insurance in the civil service is social or professional,» the civil servants’ union ADEDY said in a statement. It estimates that 140,000 working women will be affected by the ruling. These women could find that they have to work five more years than previously thought to qualify for a full public sector pension. The government refrained from clarifying which women would be affected but said that it would enter into talks with the European Commission and ADEDY in a bid to find a way of implementing the court ruling. «The government will study the judgment and will work closely with ADEDY and start negotiations with the Commission straight away in order to find a solution that is compatible with EU legislation but one that is just and protects the rights that women have won,» said Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. There are fears that the ruling could spark a massive round of early retirement by women in the civil service, which would be a huge drain on the government’s meager resources.