With the announcement of flight cancellations due to strike by French air traffic control unions scheduled for 20th November, France’s Assemblée national has approved a new law to minimize such strikes.
Several French airports throughout will experience flight cancellations on Monday due to a scheduled strike by French air traffic control unions on November 20th.
The recently approved law in the Assemblée Nationale doesn’t prohibit air traffic controllers from striking.
However, it mandates individual employees to provide their employers with a minimum of 48 hours’ notice if they plan to participate in the strike, aligning with the existing rule for SNCF railway staff and RATP, the Paris public transport operator.
The new requirement for a 48-hour notice enables employers to devise specific strike schedules based on the number of available employees. Currently, individual air traffic controllers are not obliged to provide this notice, while unions are required to file strike notices in advance.
The French Civil Aviation Authority, DGAC, directs airlines to cancel a set percentage of flights on strike days, estimating the likely employee turnout—like reducing flights by 30% at Charles de Gaulle airport. Airlines have the discretion to select which flights to cancel, often prioritizing long-haul routes. Implementing the 48-hour notice period would enable the DGAC to refine their strike plans, likely leading to fewer flight cancellations as the current rates tend to be cautious.
Transport Minister Clément Beaune stated that the law’s “protective and balanced” nature aims to resolve the “asymmetrical system” causing “public service disorganization.”
The bill, introduced by Damien Adam of President Macron’s centrist party, passed with 85 votes in favor and 30 opposed. Opposition primarily came from left-wing MPs, viewing the bill as a “threat against the right to strike,” as stated by Green Party MP Lisa Belluco. Importantly, the new law neither restricts air-traffic controllers’ strike rights nor ensures a minimum service level.
The impact of the strike hinges on union participation. The largest air traffic controllers’ union, SNCTA, has declared an “Olympic truce,” vowing no strikes until after the Paris Games and supports the new legislation. Conversely, smaller unions are furious and have scheduled a strike on Monday, November 20th, in protest.
French air traffic controllers hold the record for striking in Europe, as per a Senate study from 2005 to 2016, noting 249 strike days in France compared to 34 in Italy, 44 in Greece, and fewer than ten in other EU states. Due to France’s strategic position, their strikes significantly impact European flights traversing French airspace, totaling around 3 million flights annually.
Budget airline Ryanair has strongly opposed these actions, seeking EU intervention to impose strike controls on France. Ryanair has lamented the extensive delays caused by French air traffic control strikes, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers, as highlighted in their January complaint.