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French air traffic control unions call off planned strike

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French air traffic control unions call off planned strike
Photo: AFP
07:53 CEST+02:00
French air traffic control unions finally gave the government and the public reason to feel relieved on Wednesday when they called off their threatened three day strike this weekend.

The industrial action was due to begin on Friday June 3rd and continue until Sunday June 5th and would have led to thousands of flights being cancelled or delayed if it had gone ahead.

But after last ditch negotiations on Tuesday and Wednesday, two of the main air traffic control unions agreed to lift their strike threat.

With the SNCTA – the main union representing air traffic controllers and UNSA – the third largest union, agreeing to ditch planned industrial action, France's secretary of state for transport Alain Vidalies said aviation traffic would be “almost normal” from June 3rd to 5th.

In a statement released late on Wednesday Vidalies said an agreement had been signed with the two unions, which represent 70 percent of the 4,000 air traffic controllers.

There was more good news on Thursday morning when three more unions - the reformist CFDT and more hardline Force Ouvriere also lifted their strike notice.

At that point Vidalies said: "there will not be any disruption to air traffic this weekend".

And finally the last trade union, USAC-CGT also signed an agreement with the government later on Thursday morning which led to it too calling off its strike threat.

"All the unions have signed the agreement," announced the transport ministry" as it "saluted all the parties involved.

The cancelling of the threatened strike will also ease fears that the Euro 2016 football tournament which starts on June 10th will be hampered by transport chaos.

Unions had been protesting against a steady fall in staff numbers, which they say had  resulted in too much pressure being placed on remaining staff.

They were also demanding financial compensation for more restrictive working hours that saw more staff working at weekends and limits placed on summer holidays. They were also demanding better retirement conditions.

The CGT union claimed the agreement was a "victory" for them, saying the government "had finally bowed to their demands" for a halt to a cutting staff numbers.

It is not clear what the DGAC agreed to, but for air travellers in and out of France the most important thing is that their plans shouldn't be disrupted.

Negotiations with the CGT were ongoing the government said.

Meanwhile on Thursday SNCF workers and Paris transport staff staged rolling strikes on Thursday, with disruption hitting train services across the country as well as various Paris commuter lines. 

The capital's Metro system was however not affected by the strike.

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