(Add transport minister’s comments)
By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS, May 2 (Reuters) - France’s main air pilots union called off plans for a month-long strike on Friday, hours before it was due to start, saying they secured assurances that airlines would not be allowed draft in pilots from other countries to short-circuit industrial action.
The SNPL union announced its decision on the eve of what Air France-KLM had denounced as a “contemptuous” labour protest plan that would have involved stoppages of several hours every day from May 3-30.
Pilots at Air France said they went on the offensive after EasyJet, another airline, had recruited replacement pilots from other countries, availing itself of a law requiring 48-hour notice of strike action to do so.
Yves Deshayes, head of the SNPL union, said Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier had reassured pilots that the law on compulsory advance notice of stoppages was designed to help airlines notify passengers, but not to allow them bring pilots in from elsewhere as replacements.
“The response to our case is satisfactory,” Deshayes told a news conference at Charles de Gaulle airport north of Paris.
Cuvillier said he would summon airlines rapidly to secure assurances that they will respect the spirit of the law on strike notice and not use it to undermine the right to strike.
“I’ve asked companies circumventing this right to strike ... to adopt a code of good conduct,” Cuvillier told reporters, stressing that airlines needed advance notice to prepare for industrial action but that the right to strike was fundamental.
Air France’s share price rose after news that the airline no longer faced the prospect of a disruptive and potentially costly strike. The share price gained as much as 2.2 percent in the 30 minutes after the news emerged and was trading up 3.1 percent in mid-afternoon.
“This is excellent news for both Air France customers and staff,” Air France CEO Frederic Gagey said in a statement on the decision to call off the industrial action. (Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson; Writing by Brian Love; editing by Mark John)