Air Algerie strike leaves thousands stranded
A strike by Air Algerie cabin crew who want a 106-percent pay rise left thousands of angry travellers stranded in Paris, Marseille and Nice airports on Wednesday, France's transport minister said.
The strike began on Monday and has led to the cancellation of dozens of the ailing state-run airline's scheduled flights at a time when many French residents of north African origin make their annual trip to see relatives.
French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani on Wednesday summoned representatives from the airline, from the Algerian embassy and airport officials to try and find alternative ways of getting the travellers to their destinations.
The union representing the cabin crew said meanwhile that talks with airline bosses to resolve the dispute had ground to a halt.
"The negotiations have stalled. There has been no contact between thosestriking and the management since the day before the industrial action was launched," said union president Yacine Hamamouche.
Hamamouche said a deal was close to being agreed before the strike but it collapsed at the last minute "and we still don't know the reason".
Hundreds of the passengers had slept overnight in Orly airport in Paris and in Marseille and Nice airports.
They had ignored Air Algerie's request that passengers not show up at airports because of the strike, and on Wednesday reacted furiously when airline representatives, guarded by riot police, occasionally appeared.
Many passengers at Orly screamed "Liars! Thieves!" when one airline official explained that Air Algerie was doing its best to charter planes to get its passengers to their destinations in the former French territory.
"I paid €600 for a ticket. It's disgraceful. Air Algerie is finished!" said Leila Boubekeur, as she sat on a camp bed provided by airport officials.
Algerian state radio on Tuesday quoted the airline's chief, Mohamed Salah Boultif, as saying that Air Algerie, given its poor financial health, was in no position to grant the 106-percent pay hike sought by the strikers.
Boultif however pledged to agree to a 20-percent pay rise for all airline employees.
Air Algerie employs about 9,000 staff and flies to more than 70 destinations.
In February it announced a $700 million (€495 million) investment to increase its number of carriers from 42.
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