After weeks of widespread protests and national strikes, the French government has voted to pass a new bill that will increase the retirement age from 60 to 62, and the pension age from 65 to 67. President Nicolas Sarkozy and French officials say the country will be better off financially with the reform, expected to go into effect on July 1. “The day will come when former opponents will thank the president and the government” for “acting responsibly,” said French Labor Minister Éric Woerth. In protest of the bill, nearly 12 oil refining companies have ceased operating; as a result, nearly one-fifth of the gas stations in France are empty. Labor union leaders say the protests will not stop, and plan to hold a national protest next week.