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EU vows not to limit French air traffic controllers’ ‘right to strike’

The EU on Thursday vowed not to limit air traffic controllers' right to strike, after Ryanair and IAG demanded action to end crippling stoppages in France that they say are bringing misery to hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers.

EU vows not to limit French air traffic controllers' 'right to strike'
Photo: AFP
Budget carrier Ryanair and British Airways owner IAG want the EU to force France to do more to tackle repeated strikes by air traffic controllers which have led to more than 750,000 passengers having flights cancelled since the start of this year.
   
But the European Commission, the bloc's powerful executive arm, defended workers' “fundamental right” to go on strike and said they hoped “non-binding and non-legislative” guidelines would solve the problem.
   
“The commission is not questioning the right to strike, which is a fundamental right of workers,” spokesman Enrico Brivio told reporters.
 
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France crowned champions of air traffic control strikes
Photo: AFP
 
“The commission cannot and will not adopt any measures regulating or limiting the right to strike.”
   
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said Wednesday he believed the French government was failing to uphold passengers' right to free movement, which is enshrined in EU law, by not tackling the repeated strikes.
  
A French senate report this week said the country's air traffic control was responsible for a third of all aviation delays in Europe, according to Le Parisien newspaper.
  
Between 2004 and 2016, French air traffic controllers were on strike for 254 days, vastly outstripping their closest rival Greece, where there were 46 days of stoppages and Italy with 37, according to the report seen by the daily.
   
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said 2018 was on course to be the worst year ever for controller strikes, with 28 days lost already.
   
The vast majority of passengers hit by delays and cancellations due to the French strikes are not flying to or from France but travelling on routes which pass through the country's air space.
   
“The commission has proposed non-binding and non-legislative best practices,” Brivio said.
   
The measures include early notification of strike action and protection of overflights.
   
O'Leary warned of fresh disruption for travellers this weekend with Ryanair asked to cancel 180 flights on Saturday and Sunday because of another strike by Marseille controllers.
   
The Marseille control zone is a particular problem because it covers part of the western Mediterranean that many flights from Barcelona and the Balearic Islands — major tourist destinations — pass through.

 

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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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