Europe

Striking French pilots defy prime minister call

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Striking Air France pilots have defied government calls to go back to work, rejecting new assurances that low-cost operations would not threaten their jobs.

The work stoppage was set to go into a fourth day on Thursday, grounding more than half of Air France’s flights and costing the company an estimated EUR 10-15 million euros (USD 13-19 million) a day.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has told French radio, “We have to stop this strike,” which he said was “incomprehensible” to most French people.

“It is regrettable that a single category of employee, in this case pilots, can bring air transport in the country to a standstill,” he said.

Air France was running on only four out of 10 flights on Wednesday, as negotiations between unions and management failed to end the dispute over cost cuts.

The management of the airline has also assured the pilots that low-cost operations would not threaten their jobs. The pilots are concerned that Air France’s plans to expand its low-cost subsidiary, Transavia, could lead to thousands of job losses.

Chiming in with the premier, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has said, “We can no longer accept that the country is blocked by a few people.”

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