October 24, 2007 / 11:33 AM / 12 years ago

RPT-Air France unions sees big disruption due to strike

(Repeats to add Reuters Instrument Code)

By Marie Maitre

PARIS, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Air France has made plans to cut its short- and medium-haul flights by 30 percent due to a strike called for Thursday, a union said, but the airline insisted only 10 percent of flights would be disrupted.

Labour unions representing Air France (AIRF.PA) cabin crew staff said they would go ahead with a 5-day strike planned for Oct. 25-29 after negotiations stalled over a dispute about salary reviews and working conditions.

The strike would coincide with the start of France’s half-term school holidays.

“The meeting yesterday morning with (Chief Executive Jean-Cyril) Spinetta led to a dead end... There is no new meeting planned. The strike is on,” Leon Cremieux of Sud Aerien, one of seven trade unions supporting the strike, told Reuters.

“Thirty percent of domestic and 30 percent of European flights have already been cancelled on Thursday.... This has been in the planning (roster) since this morning,” he said.

Air France said 90 percent of its French and European flights would be maintained across its network.

“For the company as a whole, 90 percent of short- and medium-haul flights will be ensured,” Air France spokeswoman Veronique Brachet said.

“We can regroup people into bigger planes and re-route others on other companies. This means we have put in place all the means for that.”

The strike could cost Air France as much as 100 million euros ($142.2 million) a day, the CGT union said on Wednesday.

Representatives of three other unions contacted by Reuters could not confirm flight cancellation numbers, but said they expected a majority of Air France’s 14,500 cabin crew staff to go on strike.

“I think the management does not realise the level of discontent in the staff...Things are really brewing,” CGT representative Eyal Jonas told Reuters.

The seven unions calling the strike represent around 80 percent of cabin crew staff, according to unions.

Only one union, the UNAC, opposes the strike, while the CFDT, one of France’s largest unions, has called for a strike of only two days but said it supported the 5-day disruption.

At the heart of the dispute between Air France and cabin crew is the renegotiation of a framework agreement on salaries and working conditions due to expire at the end of 2007.

A separate dispute involving ground staff disrupted some flights out of Paris on Monday, passengers were told.

The disruption at Air France is unrelated to a nationwide strike over pensions which crippled train, metro and bus transport in France last week.

Shares in Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA), the world’s largest airline by revenue, were 0.2 percent higher at 25.84 euros by 1030 GMT.

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