Air France Strikers Scent Blood

Article excerpt

THE FRENCH government's climbdown over the Air France strike has failed to halt industrial action at Paris's airports and appears to have convinced unions in other industries that militancy is the best policy.

The decision to withdraw plans to cut 4,000 Air France jobs - and the subsequent resignation of the airline president, Bernard Attali - was expected to get the striking ground staff back to work. But it seems to have inspired them to stay away until further demands are met.

It has also encouraged other unions, especially in nationalised companies, to try to force concessions from the government. Union leaders proclaimed yesterday, using a slight rewriting of De Gaulle's speech in June 1940, that they had "won a battle but not the war".

Last night, the government said that Christian Blanc, a former head of the Paris transport authority, would take over as Air France's president. Jean-Cyrille Spinetta, chairman of its domestic subsidiary, Air Inter, resigned yesterday and was promptly replaced by Michel Bernard, former head of the civil aviation authority.

Today, the chaos at the capital's airports will be made worse by a strike by ground staff at Air Inter and by some staff at the airports authority. The unions justify the continued action by the absence of a written guarantee that any new restructuring plan would involve only natural wastage.

Despite a statement by Edouard Balladur, the Prime Minister, last week that he had full confidence in the Air France management, Bernard Bosson, the Transport Minister, suddenly announced on Sunday evening the withdrawal of the plan to cut 4,000 of Air France's 63,000 jobs. …