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EasyJet in talks with French unions to avert strike action

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An EasyJet Airbus A320 plane takes off from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy-en-France near Paris, France, December 2, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

British airline easyJet (EZJ.L) is expected to respond to demands for higher pay from French unions by early next week at the latest, a union representative said on Thursday.

The pay talks come as Europe braces for strikes affecting airlines ahead of its busiest Christmas travel seasons in three years as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Air France’s unionized workers have given notice to strike from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2, while Britain’s Border Force is also expected to strike, potentially disrupting transit times.

The SNPNC union statement comes after an hours-long meeting between easyJet and the SNPNC and UNAC near Paris. Talks have been going on since early November and are set to end on Dec. 7.

An SNPNC representative said that if easyJet does not accept its demands, a strike is “inevitable”.

At Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, ADP group employees responsible for energy supply went on strike earlier this week to demand more jobs, according to union FO-ADP.

Other strikes are currently disrupting the refuelling of planes, while another has hit Air France’s freight transport sector, France’s General Confederation of Labour said.

“There is no strike action notice to date in France and negotiations are ongoing,” an easyJet spokesperson told Reuters ahead of the meeting.

EasyJet’s French workers are demanding a raise of at least 8 per cent to compensate for rising inflation as well as a hike in the cost of their healthcare premium, an SNPNC union representative said.

French inflation for November hit 7.1 per cent, while easyJet had offered a raise of less than 6 per cent, the representative said.

An EasyJet spokesperson declined to confirm its offer.

The unions also want a Christmas bonus promised to other easyJet workers around the continent.

French workers, who will instead receive a 300 euro payout agreed earlier this year, said they were told they would have to forego a larger bonus.

EasyJet has said that if negotiations end in strike action, it will withdraw concession offers made so far, an email sent by easyJet to the union on Nov. 30 and seen by Reuters shows.

The email was sent in the lead up to the talks and reiterated easyJet’s bargaining position, adding that French workers had avoided redundancies despite a reduction in fleet.

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