French strike over protest conditions

CARGO and passenger flights across France face widespread disruption this week following a labour strike and poor weather conditions.

Today sees the start of a four-day strike by pilots, cabin crew and airline workers. They are protesting about a bill, passed by France’s lower house of parliament in January, which forces air transport workers to provide 48 hours’ notice ahead of any industrial action, something French railway employees already have to do.

The aim of the bill is to give airlines enough time to prepare for strikes and set up new airfreight and passenger arrangements.

Union officials complain that the transport ministry has rejected their suggested amendments to the bill. Philippe Vivier, vice-president at pilots’ union SNPL, comments: “We will have more strikes in February at a date still to be decided”.

French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani pledges that the government “will go right to the end” with its decision to oblige air transport unions to give prior notice of plans to strike.

On 6 February heavy snow also disrupted air traffic, causing the temporary closure of Toulouse Airport, in south-west France. An Aeroports de Paris spokeswoman says there has been little disruption around Paris so far. “The situation is practically normal. [The disruption] is less severe than was expected.”

On Friday 3 February Air France warned about plans to operate only 85 per cent of its long-haul flights and 80 per cent of its medium-haul flights today. So far there has been some flight cancellations due to the strike, but the impact on flights that are taking off has not been significant, the company says.

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