Pilots and air crew threaten to join French pension strikes in January

Flights to and from France could be disrupted in early January as air crew and pilots threaten to join in mass transportation strikes against the government's planned pension reforms.

Pilots and air crew threaten to join French pension strikes in January
Photo: AFP

Flights to, from and over France have so far been spared the kind of disruption seen on French railways and the Paris public transport system.

Some unions representing Air France ground crew have joined the strike, as well as a limited number of air traffic controllers which saw the cancellation of around 20 percent of flights on specific protest days in early December before services largely returned to normal.

READ ALSO Will any French train services be running over Christmas?

Pilots and flight crew have so far not been involved, but that could be about to change.

On Thursday several unions representing air crew, including the SNPL, called for members to walk out on Friday, January 3rd, possibly for an unlimited period.

Air crew unions had been having their own discussions with the government over the matter of retirement age – at present flight attendants can retire at the age of 55 and pilots at 60.

Under the government's proposed reforms, 'special regimes' which allow early retirement would be scrapped and everyone would have the same universal pension system with the legal retirement age of 62.

READ ALSO Here's what you need to know about the French government's proposed pension reforms

Certain exceptions for early retirement had been announced for physically demanding professions such as firefighters, police officers and members of the military – but not flight crew or pilots.

Following unsuccessful talks, unions have now given the government a deadline of December 23rd, otherwise they will commence strike action on January 3rd, possibly for an unlimited period.

Exactly how much disruption this would cause to flights depends on how many people follow the call to walk out, but the weekend was already set to be a busy one as it is the final weekend of the school holidays and many people had booked flights at the last minute following the announcement on Tuesday that there would be no 'Christmas truce' from rail workers, meaning that services on the railways will be severely limited over the holiday period.


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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.