Air France pilots announced the end of an almost two-week-long labour strike on Sunday but said talks would continue over the airline's plans to expand the services of its low-cost subsidiary, the major sticking point in negotiations.
Air France said that flights would gradually return to normal beginning Tuesday.
Spokesman Guillaume Schmid of the main pilots' union, the SNPL, told AFP the pilots had agreed to end the protest – which has so far cost Air France more than €200 million ($250 million) – so that negotiations over the future of its budget carrier Transavia can go ahead "in a calmer climate".
The pilots launched the strike September 15 in protest against the airline's plans to expand the operations of its low-cost carrier Transavia, which currently serves holiday destinations across Europe and the Mediterranean. They fear the airline will increasingly seek to replace expensive Air France pilots – who can earn up to €250,000 a year – with Transavia pilots, who are paid considerably less.
The pilots were pushing for a "single contract" across all Air France-KLM subsidiaries to avoid being forced to accept less attractive working conditions at Transavia.
The government has called several times for the strike to be halted, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls saying the image of France was at stake amid fury from travellers and calling the strike "unbearable".
In a statement released shortly after the end of the strike was announced, Valls said Air France must now work to regain the trust of its customers.
“It is now up to all parties in the wonderful company that is Air France to regain the confidence of all and quickly resume plans for its future development, notably regarding its Transavia subsidiary, which is undeniably an asset in the booming market for low-cost carriers.”
As the strike entered its second week with only 41 percent of flights in service, the head of Air France-KLM Alexandre de Juniac offered to postpone the expansion of Transavia’s services to “create time to carry out a thorough dialogue on the plan and to formulate the necessary guarantees with unions”, he told French daily Le Monde.
But he stressed that Air France-KLM remained committed to expanding its budget services into the future.
The SNPL pilots' union rejected this "final offer" to end the costly strike, calling it "nothing but a smokescreen that offers no more guarantees than previous offers and does not solve any of the problems".
The SNPL had called on French Prime Minister Valls to intervene to try to resolve the dispute.
"Talks have reached a complete impasse," the SNPL said in a statement. "Management is playing for time, waiting for the movement to weaken."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-09-28