French Air Traffic Control strike for an embarrassing 42nd time in seven years

There were similar scenes at many airports across Europe this weekend as the closure of French airspace caused delays and cancellations. Modifications made to the original image. Image credit: Alex Dodd/Flickr

There were similar scenes at many airports across Europe this weekend as the closure of French airspace caused delays and cancellations. Modifications made to the original image. Image credit: Alex Dodd/Flickr

So the French Air Traffic Control went on strike this weekend and, as expected, were the cause of many flight disruptions.

easyJet and Ryanair had to cancel over 50 flights between them, and other flight companies with routes over French airspace moved to limit disruption and delay for their passengers.

If it was a one-time occurrence, then I am sure there would be a degree of understanding. Fortunately, it has never happened to me, but flights are delayed and cancelled on a routine basis. It happens for one reason or another.

Though it appears that this isn’t just ‘one of those things.’ According to Ryanair it has happened 42 times. 42 times since 2009.

Now there is obviously a reason behind a strike. It is highly doubtful that a whole group of workers would purposefully avoid their jobs for a couple of days if everything was fine and dandy.

There are usually two main reasons why people strike – money and working conditions. If either were a real problem, surely they would have been resolved after the first two or three strikes. Logic would suggest that if nothing has changed after the first 40, there probably isn’t a genuine problem there.

Averaging six strikes per year suggests petulance and self-righteous behaviour. After all, France is not a third-world country, and any grievance could – and would – surely be handled by some form of judiciary.

But alas, that doesn’t appear to be the way they’re handling it and Ryanair, in particular, are not happy about it – so much so that they are the ones behind the ‘Keep Europe’s skies open’ petition.

According to the website, “Ryanair calls on the European Commission to take action to prevent flight disruptions caused by ATC strikes. Please sign this online petition to support the campaign. When Ryanair obtains one million petition signatures, we will present this petition in Brussels to urge the EU Commission and the EU Parliament and they then have to consider taking action to prevent this.”

And they also raise a perfectly amicable solution should there be any problems encountered for the workers, outlined in proposed amendment one of the petition, which states:

“Removing the right to strike from Europe’s ATC unions, in the same way that Europe’s police and military are not allowed to strike. However, European ATC workers can still join unions, organise and advance their concerns through mediation or binding arbitration, that do not involve strikes or closing skies over Europe.”

Following the most recent strike, it seems like this change in the system would be for the better. Getting stuck in a foreign country or missing days of a trip is not fair on the consumer. Why should they have to potentially miss out on money and waste time taken off work because some workers are behaving in a manner which is, as Ryanair themselves put it, ‘selfish’?

Perhaps the petition, which can be signed here, will force some beneficial moves to be made. But for now the French ATC will surely be looking towards the 43rd slate of industrial action.

 

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