Flight crews at Air France were to launch a week-long strike from Wednesday after marathon talks failed on renewing a labor accord on rules, pay and promotions. The carrier said because of the stoppage, it will have to scrap 30 percent of domestic and medium-haul flights and some 10 percent of long-haul flights at the height of the busy holiday period.
Some 35 percent of Air France cabin crew, which accounts for 13,600 out of 50,000-strong workforce, is expected to join the action that is planned to continue to August 2. The company said flights to destinations in Europe, North Africa and Israel will be affected, as well as some routes in Asia and Africa.
Unions, which represent around half of the strikers, said the strike would go ahead as planned after lengthy negotiations failed to extend the labor accord which expires in October. Air France wants to limit the extension of the agreement to 17 months, whereas unions insist on extending the accord between three and five years. The carrier has been on loggerheads with unions for the past few weeks over cutting costs to better compete against lower-cost rivals.
On June 11, about a quarter of pilots in Air France went on a four-day strike, demanding that the government scrap the contentious labor reforms and guarantee better working conditions. The strike cost the airline some $44 million. Three major pilot unions called another four-day stoppage on June 24 after the airline’s management made “very vague promises” in negotiations during the previous industrial action.
The planned work stoppage by unions on Wednesday is the latest strike to hit France that has been witnessing violent protests and strikes over the Socialist government’s contentious changes to the labor law in recent months. The actions have affected rail services, power stations, oil refineries, ports and waste treatment plans. Paris says the proposed labor reforms focus on maximum working hours, holidays and breaks, and are aimed at curbing the unemployment rate.
Demonstrators and trade unions, however, say the government wants to make it easier and less costly for employers to lay off workers. The draft labor bill was forced through the lower house of parliament, but it must be debated in the Senate for final approval. French officials have rejected calls to withdraw the labor reforms and vowed to stand firm on the unpopular measures.