Paris airport strike spurs flight cancellations

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About 10 percent of all flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport were cancelled due to strikes by ground personnel on Thursday and similar disruption is expected on Friday, a spokesman for airport operator ADP said.

Due to expected demonstrations, he added, road traffic leading to CDG could be disrupted on Friday and recommended that travellers take a train from Paris to the airport.

The spokesman said Orly airport south of Paris was not affected by the walkout, which was called in a dispute over pay and benefits.

With airline traffic returning toward pre-pandemic levels, the hardline CGT trade union and others want serious wage increases to offset galloping inflation, which hit a record high 6.5 percent in France in June. The CGT is demanding a general wage increase of €300 euros per month for all staff.

The workers’ demands come as airlines are struggling to recruit staff after having cut their headcounts massively during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The French aviation authority DGAC has asked airlines to cancel one flight in six on Friday between 7:00am local time (0500 GMT) and 2:00pm. Airport operator ADP expects that roughly 10 percent of flights will be cancelled on Friday.

On Thursday, only ADP workers were on strike, but on Friday staff at airlines, subcontractors and other airport-related companies are expected to join.

A first airport strike in Paris on June 9 – involving 1,500 strikers, according to the CGT – led to the cancellation of 20 percent of flights in the morning at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle.

“Salaries need to go up, not by two or three percent but by 15 to 20 percent,” said Loris Foreman, a ground handling agent at Paris’s main international airport, on the eve of the walkout.

“When you start at 5:00am or work odd hours all the time, this leads to burn-out, and at the moment there are loads of airport staff who are on sick leave for depression,” he added.

Last month, Foreman earned €1,770 net, but he said that does not allow him to live comfortably anymore, with inflation eroding his wages.

He now has to scour supermarkets for promotions on food items – showing three pots of cream in his fridge and a lamb shoulder in his freezer – and never fills his car’s fuel tank to the top, he said.

A strike is a bother for travellers, Foreman acknowledged, but added that he had no choice.

“Yes, we know that we are taking passengers hostage, but we need to make our voice heard and the only way to do that is with a strike,” he said.

Several European airlines and airports have experienced strikes in recent weeks and more travel disruptions are expected next month as airline workers use strong travel demand and staff shortages caused in part by the Covid-19 pandemic to push for higher wages and better working conditions.

Airports in cities such as London, Amsterdam, Rome and Frankfurt have had to cope with flight cancellations and long queues.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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