No end in sight in Air Algerie strike

14th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A strike by Air Algerie cabin crew stretched into its fourth day Thursday with no apparent end in sight, leaving thousands of angry holidaymakers stranded in French airports and in Algiers.

The strike over pay has led to the cancellation of dozens of the Air Algerie's flights at a time when many French-based Algerian expatriates make their annual trip to see relatives.

The state airline's chief, Mohamed Salah Boultif, said that the ailing company was in no position to grant the 106-percent pay hike sought by the strikers.

The union representing the cabin crew said Wednesday that talks with airline bosses to resolve the dispute had ground to a halt.

"There has been no contact between those striking and the management since the day before the industrial action was launched," said union president Yacine Hamamouche.

Hamamouche said a deal was close to being agreed before the strike but it collapsed at the last minute "and we still don't know the reason".

Algerian media, quoting the airline management, said some strikers were being laid off, with the daily El-Watan putting the figure at 46, while state news agency APS said 20.

There was no official confirmation from the airline and the union said it had not been informed.

The government meanwhile is saying little about a strike which is front-page news in the national press.

Transport Minister Amar Tou however told the daily Liberty that the timing of the stoppage was "no accident", referring to the thousands of holidaymakers -- French nationals of Algerian descent and Algerians living in France -- stranded in French airports.

The government daily El Moudjahid in an editorial blasted the strikers, accusing them of "poisoning the life of compatriots who have nothing to do" with the dispute.

But French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani, who Wednesday chaired a meeting in Paris bringing together representatives of the Algerian ambassy, Air Algerie and Paris airports and French state agencies, underscored "the airline's obligations toward its customers".

The Algerian government is calling for a "fair agreement that takes into account the financial possibilities of the airline."

Boultif has offered a 20 percent pay increase to the strikers, but the 900 cabin crew are demanding a 106 percent hike plus a status similar to that of pilots, particularly on how to calculate overtime.

The ailing airline, which operates around 14 daily flights and carries nearly 3.5 million passengers annually, ranks four in Africa, behind Egypt Air, South African Airways and Royal Air Maroc.

This oil and gas-rich country of 35 million people has been jolted by repeated strikes and demonstrations since riots over the high cost of living erupted in January, leaving five people dead and more than 800 hurt.

© 2011 AFP

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