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Air France pilot unions call for strike during Euro 2016

Air France’s pilot unions have called on members to strike during the first week of the Euro 2016 soccer championship in a protest over pay, although the airline’s chief executive said fans could just drive or take the train.

The unions said in a joint statement they planned to strike from June 11 until June 14 and might schedule further strikes a few days later if necessary. The soccer tournament begins in Paris on June 10 and will run until July 10.

The strike call comes after weeks of nationwide protests against a planned labour law reform, which have blocked refineries, led to fuel shortages and disrupted train schedules.

“We have to speak with them and convince them that to go on strike is not the best way to promote future growth,” Air France CEO Frederic Gagey said.

But Gagey said the airline would hold firm on pay even if it meant disrupting the championships, and that a strike would not paralyse travel to the tournament.

“People can drive or take the train,” he said, adding that KLM – the group’s Dutch arm – would not be affected and travellers coming from the United States could use partner airline Delta.

The strike call was by unions Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne (SNPL), which represents more than half of the airline’s pilots, and SPAF, which represents about a quarter.

An Air France spokesman said it was to soon to estimate the impact of the strike on the airline’s accounts.

The airline lost more than 400 million euros in September 2014 during a 15-day pilots’ strike against a plan to develop its low-cost unit Transavia.

A unit of Air France-KLM, owned 17.6 percent by the French state, Air France said it would invite the unions to discuss ways of ending the strike.

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