France - air traffic controllers walk off the job

Hundreds of flights were cancelled today as air traffic controllers across France walked off the job.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled today as air traffic controllers across France walked off the job.

The strike was part of nationwide industrial action by public employees on salaries, retirement benefits and the government’s privatisation plans.

Only one in five scheduled flights were expected to take off from Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports in Paris today, with short- and mid-range services hit hardest.

Long-haul flights to destinations were expected to be affected less, Paris airports authority ADP said.

About 100 flights were due to take off today from Orly, while some 300 were to leave Charles de Gaulle.

The powerful Communist-aligned CGT union helped organise the strike, which was expected to include demonstrations in many cities across the country.

Many Paris subway stations were packed, while southern cities like Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Marseille reported sharp service cutbacks for public transport.

The protest amounted to one of the first serious challenges for the five-month-old government of centre-right Premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin, which has made a priority of selling off the state’s stake in many French companies to raise cash.

And it marked the second day of France’s transport sector woes. Striking truckers blockaded dozens of roads in a protest over pay yesterday, but the roadblocks came down by the end of the day as police stepped in to keep traffic moving.

Two top truckers unions, whose dispute is with management – not the government - had vowed to revive the protest today, but the blockades did not appear to be going up on a large scale.

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