FRENCH air traffic controllers have called a five-day strike next week, from January 27-31, to coincide with a two-day cross-Europe strike.
The strikes are part of protests against EU plans for a “Single European Sky” which will face a vote in the European Parliament transport committee on January 30. The open-skies plan, called SES2+, tightens a previous move to change air traffic control from a national to an EU level to improve efficiency, cut costs and reduce emissions.
Unions broadly welcome the plans, but say ATC workers and safety have been forgotten in a top-down, market-principles approach to cut costs that would impact on both safety and jobs.
The French and German governments have already spoken out against the SES2+ plan but when French SNCTA union, the controllers’ main union, met officials from the Transport Ministry yesterday, secretary Roger Rousseau said the talks were “fruitless”.
The SNCTA strike action starts on Monday but will have most effect on Thursday, January 30, when its rival union, USAC-CGT, which has a majority among staff at the DGAC air control service, has called for a one-day strike.
SES2+ and its predecessor SES introduce the idea of nine Functional Airspace Blocks to get rid of the present system of 27 country air traffic control blocks - but so far not all countries have put the original SES plan in place.
European unions ETF and ATCEUC say the plan risks “a new fragmentation of the European sky” by unbundling support services and the ETF’s François Ballestero told website Air Traffic Management that “staff are already suffering from a performance scheme dominated by a continuing cost reduction and in which safety is not considered to be the first priority”.
The calls to cut costs have been backed by airlines, who say that European ATC costs are twice those in the US. EU officials want to cut costs by 4.6% per year between 2015 and 2019, with non-ATC services to be privatised.