Pilots on strike at Air France

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The majority of pilots' trade unions represented in the Air France group took part in a relatively successful strike from 20-23 May 1997, protesting at the setting up of a two-tier salary system.

For the first time since 1993, the six pilots' unions represented at Air France have called a strike. They were opposing the implementation, at Air France and Air France Europe (formerly Air Inter), of special employment arrangements for trainee pilots. The management has, in effect, decided to "bring salaries into line with those of their competitors" and in particular with those at British Airways. This would mean that the annual starting salary would be lowered from FRF 350,000 to FRF 220,000. Most of the unions consider that this would lead to the setting up of a two-tier system within the Air France group, and to salary discrepancies among people doing the same type of jobs. The SNPL (Syndicat national des pilotes de ligne), which is the largest pilots' union with 1,350 members out of a total of 3,100, would prefer to see these measures applied not solely to trainee pilots but instead, to all flight crews. On the first day of the strike (20 May 1997), the management struck a deal with one of the smaller unions (SPAC, Syndicat des pilotes de l'aviation civile) which brought the starting salary up to FRF 240,000. This agreement also took account of the seniority of 180 Air France trainees who had not been offered permanent employment in 1992, and set their starting salaries at FRF 320,000.

The remaining unions have refused to take part in this agreement, the sole aim of which, in their opinion, is "to divide pilots" and which does not question the principle of the two-tier salary system. Although the management had committed itself to providing a near-normal service during the strike, there were serious problems with domestic and medium-haul flights (of which 50% were cancelled).

The pilots' dispute is the latest in a wave of industrial conflict which has been affecting air transport in France (FR9704138F).

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