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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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STRIKES

French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.

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