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French air traffic controllers call for a one-day strike in September

All major airports in France set to be affected and action could impact fans travelling to the Rugby World Cup

Flights that cross French airspace could be affected as well as those arriving in and leaving from the country Pic: Benjamin_Barbe / Shutterstock

The largest Air Traffic Controller (ATC) union in France has announced its intention to strike for one day in September.

Controllers and other staff at major airports in France are set to be affected and action could impact travellers coming to France for the Rugby World Cup

The Syndicat national des contrôleurs du trafic aérien (SNCTA) is pressing for pay rises. It said in a press release that it is acting due to “the silence of the French civil aviation authority [Direction générale de l'aviation civile] in the face of inflation.” 

The strike will take place from the beginning of the morning shift of Friday September 15 to the night shift of the same day – potentially affecting flights on the days before and after. 

It could also affect flights that cross France but which do not land in the country.

Union demands better compensation

“French air traffic control, like all other European service providers, is governed by European performance plans which provide for compensation for inflation,” said the union. 

“These mechanisms should finally be properly taken into account and the unjustifiable dogmatism of the public authorities, which is… devaluing both the performance and the purchasing power of air traffic controllers, should cease,” it adds. 

The union is calling for “mobilisation to ensure that inflation is matched and that compulsory annual negotiations are put in place.” 

The announcement came as a “technical issue" impacted UK air traffic control systems on Monday (August 28), causing thousands of passengers to have flights delayed or cancelled. 

Airports are warning those flying to or from the UK on Tuesday (August 29) to check with their airline if their flight is affected. Some reports say problems will continue all week.

In addition the inter-union group are expected to call for a day of general strike across multiple sectors to take place on October 13. However to date they have not made an official announcement calling for strike action. 

Read more: EasyJet cancels 1,700 summer flights amid fears of further strikes

Strike could affect Rugby World Cup 

The French strike is scheduled for one day, September 15, but could have knock-on effects on the following days. 

The Rugby World Cup will run in France from September 8 to October 28 and those travelling to watch matches would potentially be impacted, including fans travelling to see New Zealand vs Namibia (September 15) and Wales vs Portugal and Ireland vs Tonga (September 16).

Unions representing RATP [Parisian public transportation] workers have also filed a strike notice for the duration of the Rugby World Cup over unfair compensation for above-ground and station workers during the event.

Strike causes further ire for airline bosses 

Airline chiefs have reacted with anger. 

“Since the beginning of the year, there have been 23 [strike actions by French ATCs]. And it's still going on,” said Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary. 

Strike action by French ATCs impacts not just flights set to arrive or depart in France, but all across Europe. 

Many flights, especially those to and from the UK, traverse French airspace, but when ATCs are on strike access can become limited, causing wide-ranging delays.

“The British going to Spain, the Germans to Portugal, the Irish to Italy [will be affected by the strikes],” said Mr O’Leary.

Earlier this year a group of 16 major airline companies, including Ryanair, filed a request for the EU to change the law surrounding ATC strikes in Europe.

Demands included a minimum service requiring international flights to remain unaffected, with domestic flights the first to be cancelled, as well as notification of strike action to be given in advance.

Related articles: 

New Ryanair routes, barge travel and traffic: 7 French travel updates

What is new and what changes in France in September?

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