75,000 passengers hit as walkout ground French flights

An Air France plane at an embarkation slot at Paris Orly airport

Air traffic controllers walk out in support of public sector strike

Up to 75,000 air passengers were expected to be affected as air traffic controllers in France walked out on a 24-hour strike in support of a national public sector strike on Thursday.

Some 150 demonstrations have been planned nationwide in a fourth round of protests at the axing of 120,000 civil service posts by 2022 as part of the government's public sector reforms.

It is "the first time that the government has found itself confronted with all the trade union organisations that reject a bill", according to the CGT's Mireille Stivala. A total nine main unions support the strike.

France's civil aviation authority asked airlines to cut scheduled services to and from France by 30%, meaning that in the region of 600 flights would be cancelled, while flights that were still operating would be likely to face delays.

Charles de Gaulle and Orly in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Nice, Bordeaux, Nantes and Beauvais were among the airports affected, with the strike affecting mostly short-haul flights, as airlines promised to operate 73% of scheduled services.

Flights delayed and cancelled at Nice airport

Unions warned that this latest strike should be regarded as just 'one step' in a campaign against the reforms. But Secretary of State Olivier Dussopt said on Thursday that there will be no withdrawal or renegotiation of the draft law.

He told CNews: "We had 15 months of consultation, six weeks of formal consultations, then I accepted many amendments presented by the two unions that played the game of amendments, the CFDT and the UNSA, and the Assembly's Law Committee took up the text that will be considered on Monday."

Meanwhile, about 15% of primary school teachers in France walked out on Thursday to protest the government's planned education reforms under the Loi Blanquer, which was passed by parliament in February.

Under the reform French schools from nursery (ages three to six) all the way up to collège will become one single administrative entity, under the authority of the collège whose director will be responsible for all three establishments. The measures could take effect from September.

Other changes will see nursery education become compulsory from the age of three, students training to become teachers allowed to teach in schools several hours a week, and the French flag displayed in all classrooms.

Next week, pilots for Air France and other French airlines a planning to strike from May 14 to May 19.

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