Tags: EU | France | Airport | Strikes

French Gov't in Talks With Air Traffic Controllers

Wednesday, 24 Feb 2010 02:36 PM

A strike by French air traffic controllers disrupted flights for a second day Wednesday, and airlines geared up for another day of delays.

Union representatives met for several hours with Transport Ministry officials in hopes of finding a solution to the conflict and held out hope that a resolution was in sight.

The strike has led to massive delays and cancellations at Paris' two main airports, mainly of domestic and European short-haul flights.

The same scenario was in the works for Thursday if no agreement comes through. Air France said it expected to maintain 75 percent of its short- and medium-haul flights Thursday at Charles de Gaulle airport, the main Paris airport, and 50 percent at Orly airport, south of the capital. All long-haul flights were to be maintained, Air France said.

Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, No. 2 in the government, speaking on France-2 television, assured controllers they would not lose their civil servant status, a chief concern.

Unions representing the controllers called the strike Tuesday to protest planned reforms that workers fear will lead to losses of jobs and civil servant benefits. They notably fear the creation of a European air traffic regulator — and the dismantling of France's civil aviation authority.

They have vowed to continue the walkout through Friday if their demands are not met.

Extra personnel were on hand Wednesday at Orly to advise passengers whose flights were canceled about alternate routes.

That was little comfort to Sabine Jossel, scheduled to attend a geology symposium outside Marseilles. "I don't understand this strike," she said after her flight was delayed four hours and then canceled. "After a certain time, people are going to get angry."

Ali Arrouche, 56, was trying to get to Algeria to see his ailing mother.

"It's miserable. I'm upset. I'm not happy. I am angry. I was told that I would be here until Sunday," said Arrouche, who works in construction.

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