Air France pilots protest as premier spurns strike

Updated: 2014-09-24 10:01


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Air France pilots protest as premier spurns strike

Striking Air France pilots attend a demonstration near the National Assembly in Paris during their second week strike September 23, 2014. The labour dispute with French pilots over the launch of Air France-KLM's low-cost airline Transavia in Europe could force management to abandon it, the company's chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said on Tuesday. Speaking as a strike costing up to 20 million euros($25.7 million) daily entered its ninth day despite his promise to suspend the project to the end of the year, de Juniac said he was deeply reluctant to abandon a launch he sees as crucial to fight competition from other low-cost players, but that he might have to. The pilots wear reinterpreted sailor shirt by Armor Lux textile company and the slogan reads "pilots on strike, united for our future". [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - Scores of striking Air France pilots took their protest to the streets on Tuesday, demonstrating in full uniform outside of France's National Assembly to demand government intervention to end an eight-day standoff.

Parent company Air France-KLM says about half of all Air France flights have been cancelled since the strike started. The pilots oppose the proposed expansion of its low-cost carrier, Transavia, which the company sees as a way to cut costs and stay competitive. Air France says the walkout is costing up to 20 million euros ($25 million) a day.

The main pilots' union, SNPL, says management's offer a day earlier to delay the expansion of Transavia until December was a smoke screen, and accused the airline of trying to move jobs to countries with lower taxes and cheaper labor.

While strikes are relatively common in France's labor force, it's rare to see pilots protesting. About 200 hundred pilots took part in the demonstration, waving placards, posting stickers on their hats, and handing out T-shirts evocative of another French labor movement against the outsourcing of jobs abroad.

"The number of people working for Air France is decreasing every year and there is no point building another company outside of France," protesting pilot Alain Magi said. "This will not only cost pilot jobs in Air France ... that will kill Air France. We can't accept this."

The protest came just a few hours after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke out against the protesters.

"This strike has no reason, is not understood by the French, gives France a bad image and is a real danger for the company," he said.

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