PARIS – Scores of striking Air France pilots took their protest to the streets on Tuesday, demonstrating in full uniform outside of France’s National Assembly to demand government intervention to end an eight-day standoff.
Parent company Air France-KLM says about half of all Air France flights have been cancelled since the strike started. The pilots oppose the proposed expansion of its low-cost carrier, Transavia, which the company sees as a way to cut costs and stay competitive. Air France says the walkout is costing up to 20 million euros ($25 million) a day.
The main pilots’ union, SNPL, says management’s offer a day earlier to delay the expansion of Transavia until December was a smoke screen, and accused the airline of trying to move jobs to countries with lower taxes and cheaper labour.
While strikes are relatively common in France’s labour force, it’s rare to see pilots protesting. About 200 hundred pilots took part in the demonstration, waving placards, posting stickers on their hats, and handing out T-shirts evocative of another French labour movement against the outsourcing of jobs abroad.
“The number of people working for Air France is decreasing every year and there is no point building another company outside of France,” protesting pilot Alain Magi said. “This will not only cost pilot jobs in Air France … that will kill Air France. We can’t accept this.”
The protest came just a few hours after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke out against the protesters.
“This strike has no reason, is not understood by the French, gives France a bad image and is a real danger for the company,” he said.