by The Associated Press | April 11, 2018
PARIS (AP) - Union members in France are standing firm as they continue to demand pay raises. Striking Air France pilots and cabin staff insisted they weren't backing down, as their latest walkout forced the cancellation of some 30 percent of the airline's flights worldwide Wednesday. Union members protested at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, where screens showed canceled notices next to multiple flights.
 
Staff want 6 percent pay raises, after seven years of salary freezes as the company went through a restructuring to stem losses. The airline argues that such pay rises would threaten the turnaround effort. Sophie Gorins, general secretary of the SNPNC flight crew union, said, "We won't stop the conflict unless they give us the 6 percent."
 
Several meetings between workers' representatives and Air France management already have taken place since the strike started on Feb. 22, but unions say they have not yet received a satisfactory reply to their demands. The company has lost more than 100 million euros (US$124 million) in sporadic strikes since February. 
 
Meanwhile, French commuters coped with another day of disrupted train service as labor unions insisted Monday they would not back down from a series of strikes that is expected to continue later in the week. Some 80 percent of French high-speed trains were out of operation as rail workers entered their fourth day of what the unions promised would be periodic rolling strikes through June. About one-quarter of international trains to and from France also were affected.
 
The next round of walkouts is scheduled for Friday and Saturday. The unions have set a strike schedule that calls for work stoppages lasting two or four days per week. "It's intolerable because we're all working," commuter Christelle Gedin said Monday at Paris' Saint-Lazare station.
 
France's national SNCF rail authority forecast a resumption of regular domestic high-speed train service for Tuesday, which was not set as a strike day. SNCF said service would be close to normal for international lines, but 20 to 40 percent of trains not on high-speed domestic routes would be canceled.
 
The unions are protesting French President Emmanuel Macron's plans to revoke a special status that allows rail drivers to retain jobs and other benefits for life. The government wants to do away with the protections to make the rail sector more competitive. 
 
SNCF chief executive Guillaume Pepy told BFM TV channel the public rail company, including its freight department, has lost about 100 million euros (US$123 million) since the strikes started last week.
 
Several hundred union activists protested in Paris as legislators in the National Assembly began debate Monday on the rail reforms sought by Macron's government. A few protesters hurled bottles, while others waved flares or carried union flags as riot police stood guard, but the protest ended peacefully.
 
"First of all, we are defending our status and that's a real thing, and secondly, we are defending our public services in France," striking rail worker Kamel Aroup said. Supporters are crowdfunding online to help striking workers who are giving up their wages during the walkouts.