Airport strikes hit Paris and spread across Europe

A one-day strike yesterday by ground staff and firefighters at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris forced the cancellation of a quarter of flights through the airport, one of the largest in Europe. The workers were demanding a monthly increase of €300 amid spiraling increases in the cost of living in France and internationally.

They also demanded more staff as layoffs during the pandemic left airports unable to cope with the current surge in air travel. The Workers Force (FO) union has estimated that 15,000 airport workers have lost their jobs in the past two years, leaving the remaining ‘workers under pressure’. The Paris Airports Authority (ADP) is currently seeking to fill 4,000 positions.

Sylvia, a security guard at Charles de Gaulle airport, told reporters: “We are all struggling to get to the end of the month; we all have debts on which we must pay. She noted that security personnel earned “only a few euros above the minimum wage”.

Strikes also took place at smaller regional airports in France. Stalinist union officials from the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) at Carcassonne airport explained their one-day strike on June 8, saying The Independent“We want our jobs to really match what we were hired to do. Whenever the workforce decreases, management assigns workers tasks that are not included in their contracts. … The management makes no concessions. The director said he would announce something on June 17.

The airport strikes in France are part of a growing wave of struggles across Europe and internationally by airport and airline workers, a powerful section of the working class that can quickly shut down large swathes of the world economy.

The day before the strike in France, airline and air traffic controllers in Italy went on strike at the country’s airports. Some 68 flights to Milan Malpensa, 40 to Milan Bergamo and 15 to Linate and Turin have been canceled as air traffic controllers and workers from Alitalia, RyanAir, EasyJet, Volotea and other airlines went on strike over wages and working conditions. Controllers are hitting operations at airports in Milan, Turin, Verona, Genoa, Cuneo, Bologna and Parma.

Italian union officials told the Corriere della Sera that the airline workers’ strike was against “the violation of minimum wage rules set by the national contract, the continued decline in wage levels, arbitrary wage cuts, non-payment of sick leave, refusal of the company to grant compulsory vacation days during the summer season, and the lack of water and meals for the staff.

RyanAir broke off contract talks on June 8 in Spain, where dozens of airports could go on strike; it also faces strike threats in Italy, Portugal, France and Belgium.

Beyond Italy and France, strikes at airports have spread across much of Europe in recent weeks as airlines have massively overbooked passengers in an attempt to recoup lost profits over the past few weeks. the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, when few passengers were traveling. This heightens the risks of infection, as a new wave of COVID-19 begins across Europe and governments drop all public health measures against contagion. All of this creates impossible working conditions for airport and airline workers.

Last month, the director of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Willie Walsh, insisted that air traffic would return to pre-pandemic figures by 2023, despite staff shortages and new waves of infection.

“We are seeing very strong reservations. Granted, all of the airline CEOs I speak to not only see good demand for year-end travel, but they continue to see demand throughout the year,” Walsh said. He ignored warnings about high oil prices and strikes, insisting the focus should be on profits. “I don’t think we should be distracted by the fact that we are seeing a strong recovery,” he told the Irish. Independent.

This ruthless pursuit of profit at the expense of working people has sparked a wave of strikes across Europe that could intensify over the summer.

In April, Polish air traffic controllers defeated a threat of mass layoffs, walking off the job to overwhelmingly reject government demands for a pay cut of up to 70%. The Polish government has been stunned by the threat of a total air traffic shutdown in a country at the center of NATO’s war against Russia. He decided to bide his time, temporarily withdrew his request for a pay cut and used the services of the controllers’ union ZZKRL to end the strike.

At Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, baggage handlers and security staff could resume strike action this summer after Dutch unions ended their strikes in April and May. Dutch union leader Joost van Doesburg admitted that workers are still overworked and angry: “Something big has to happen. I’m shocked and the members are frustrated. It’s completely out of control. Staff members are literally falling to the ground.

Voting began this week among workers at London’s Heathrow Airport on whether to strike this summer. The airport ground staff unions agreed to a 10% pay cut during the pandemic, which they justified citing falling passenger numbers. But management has since restored its normal inflated wages while continuing to freeze workers’ wages despite soaring global inflation. The result of the vote is expected on June 23.

On June 8, Lufthansa announced the cancellation of 900 flights in July, in a statement stating: “The entire airline industry, especially in Europe, is currently suffering from bottlenecks and staff shortages. This affects airports, passenger handling, air traffic control and airline staff. Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa’s central hub, has warned that staff shortages could lead to major delays at what is Germany’s biggest airport.

This follows a one-day strike in March by German airport security guards who halted all departures from Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Hanover, Stuttgart, Cologne/Bonn and Düsseldorf airports. Although the unions ended the action, none of the workers’ underlying grievances were addressed.

The key issue facing airport workers is the need to unify their struggles internationally and break free from the debilitating national framework imposed by union bureaucracies that work closely with capitalist management and governments and seek to overcome their own limbs. For this, the workers must form rank-and-file committees, independent of the unions, to coordinate and direct their actions.

The various national unions are totally bankrupt. They divide the working class along national lines and sell each strike piecemeal. In this way, explosive social opposition is bottled up, suppressed and subordinated to trade union maneuvers with capitalist governments.

A unified European strike by airline workers and air traffic controllers could cripple much of the continent’s economy and demonstrate the vast social power of the working class. It could not only impose improved working conditions and wages, but spark a movement in the broader working class against the problems of imperialist war, the criminal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, social inequality and the surge of the cost of living.

The basis of such a movement would be the building of the International Workers Alliance of Rank-and-File Committees (IWA-RFC) and the struggle for a socialist perspective that subordinates socially created wealth to social needs.