French union calls off potentially damaging pilots' strike

2014-05-05 09:52

Roissy, France - A potentially damaging French pilots' strike has been called off at the last minute, the union organising the work stoppage said Friday, just days after Air France warned it risked hampering the airline's painstaking recovery.

The strike from May 3 to 30, which was called by the country's main SNPL pilots' union, would have seen pilots stop work at specific times every day, which Air France said would severely disrupt its medium and long-haul flights.

On Friday, SNPL head Yves Deshayes said the union had decided to call off the strike "on the basis of (government) proposals" after representatives met with Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier -- a move welcomed by Air France chief Frederic Gagey.

The pilots had planned to protest against a law stipulating that those who strike must declare their intention to do so 48 hours before the start of a work stoppage.

The regulation was put in place to give airlines more time to warn passengers about flight disruptions, but the SNPL says it actually allows them to hire temporary replacement pilots from other European countries.

"The government recognised for the first time that these practices were not acceptable," Deshayes told reporters Friday, adding the government had made "a strong commitment" on looking to modify the law, although "no guarantees" had been given to the union.

Earlier this week, Air France chief Gagey had warned that the strike -- which had nothing to do with the airline itself -- was "taking place at a crucial time in Air France's recovery".

After six years of financial losses that led to radical cost-cutting measures including thousands of job cuts, the airline is aiming to generate a positive operating income this year -- a target it said could have been damaged by the strike.

On Friday, Gagey welcomed the cancellation of the strike, saying it was "excellent news for Air France clients and employees".

"Air France can now devote all its energy to pursuing its recovery."


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