French Controllers are disrupting air travel to/from EU and within
Complaint at European Commission against French Government
EC precedent requiring free movement
International Airlines Group (IAG), easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air have all submitted complaints to the European Commission (EC). The seven commercial, privately owned airlines are suing the French Government because its striking air traffic controllers have disrupted the free movement of goods and people. Under a 1997 EC precedent, France was found to have failed Spain. There the problem was the government’s failure to ensure the movement when the French farmers prevented the Spanish fruits and vegetables goods from crossing the border.
Already this year French ATC strikes have risen 300% compared to the whole of 2017.
French Senate confirmed that French ATCs were responsible for 33% of all flight delays in Europe and up to June, over 16,000 flights had been delayed owing to French ATC strikes which resulted in more than two million passengers being affected.
As the airlines explained:
According to Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO: “These disruptions are unacceptable, and we call on Europe’s Governments and the EU Commission to take urgent and decisive action to ensure that ATC providers are fully staffed and that overflights are not affected when national strikes take place, as they repeatedly do in France.”
Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, commented that: “We fully respect the right to strike and have been in constructive dialogue with the EU and the French government to address the issue of ATC strikes. Unfortunately, our passengers have felt little progress so far, which is why we felt it is necessary to take this next step – particularly given the sustained industrial action this year which has totaled 29 days to date.”
None of the carriers are disputing the ATCs right to strike
But the European Commission, the bloc’s powerful executive arm, defended workers’ “fundamental right” to go on strike and said they hoped “non-binding and non-legislative” guidelines would solve the problem.
“The commission is not questioning the right to strike, which is a fundamental right of workers,” spokesman Enrico Brivio told reporters.
The European Commission (EC) on Tuesday announced it would analyze the complaint submitted by a group of European airlines against industrial action staged by French air traffic controllers (ATC.)
The EC announced it had no further comment other than to acknowledge receipt of the complaint and confirmed it would be duly analyzed by the Commission.
… Enrico Brivio added: “delays or flight cancellations have a negative impact for passengers and the entire EU economy, ”
As was learned in 1981, 18 USC § 1918(4) states as follows (still in effect):
participates in a strike, or asserts the right to strike, against the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia; or
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year and a day, or both.
The French ATC mess should serve as a reminder to the next person designated to draft a new ATC “corporatization” bill to address explicitly whether the controllers transferred to the proposed entity may or may not strike. Without such a clarification, it is quite possible that a Complaint similar to the one just submitted by International Airlines Group (IAG), easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air would be filed in some US Court.
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