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Police ready as air dispute eases

Airport delays reduced in run-up to Christmas rush despite security workers' strike

POLICE are ready to step in to take over the jobs of security workers at strike-hit airports to make sure the hundreds of thousands of Christmas holiday-makers get away with minimum disruption.

As the strike enters its sixth day - and with the disruption being much reduced from the early part of the protest last weekend - the Interior Ministry said 300 police and 100 gendarmes were standing by to man security checks.

Unions say negotiations have not moved foward despite the appointment of two mediators and management had not budged on its refusal to look at new pay scales for staff, who are paid less than the average wage. The employers group said it could not afford the €200 pay rise demanded as "our margins are next to zero".

Despite strike votes at several airports, including Nice, Bâle-Mulhouse and Rennes, no new disruption was being reported in the strike, which has been concentrated on Lyon, Charles-de-Gaulle and Toulouse.

At Lyon, the management say terminal 3 has been closed and all flights will take off from terminal 2 - but said all flights would get away. They again advised departing passengers not to bring oversize baggage as this could not be checked in.

At Roissy, terminal 2F was the worst-hit with long queues although waiting times were averaging 45 minutes.

At Toulouse, management was advising passengers to arrive early for their flights and forecast no cancellations and only minimal delays.

Nice Airport management said that although there were strikers in Terminal 2 there was no effect on flights.

The police union SGP-FO has criticised the plan to bring in officers to help man security checks, saying "police are not intended to be strike-breakers" and senior gendarmerie sources have told Libération that their resources are stretched at this time of year with the Vigipirate anti-terror alert.

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