By Caroline Pailliez
PARIS – Three times a week, Loris Foreman, a ground handling agent at Paris’ main international airport Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, drives to his workplace, coffee in hand, before sunrise. After eight years in the job, he wonders if the money is worth it.
On Friday, Foreman, who handles flights for major airlines such as Qatar Airways, Emirates and Air Canada in his job with an airport subcontractor, joined a strike over the rising cost of living.
With airline traffic returning toward pre-pandemic levels, his hardline CGT trade union and others want serious wage increases to offset galloping inflation, which hit a record high 6.5% in France in June.
“Salaries need to go up, not by two or three percent but by 15 to 20%,” Foreman, whose union demands a general wage increase of 300 euros ($314.37) per month for all staff, said on the eve of the walkout.
Similar to Paris, airports across Europe are seeing strike action as summer holidays approach, and airports such as London, Amsterdam, Rome and Frankfurt have had to cope with flight cancellations and long queues.
The workers’ demands come as airlines are struggling to recruit staff after having cut headcount massively during the pandemic.
A first airport strike in Paris on June 9 – involving 1,500 strikers, according to the CGT – led to the cancellation of 20% of flights in the morning at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle.
The French aviation authority DGAC has asked airlines to cancel one flight in six on Friday between 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and 2 p.m. Airport operator ADP expects that roughly 10% of flights will be canceled on Friday.
“When you start at 5 a.m. or work odd hours all the time, this leads to burn-out, and at the moment there are loads of airport staff who are on sick leave for depression,” Foreman said.
Last month, Foreman earned 1,770 euros net, but he said that does not allow him to live comfortably anymore, with inflation eroding his wages.
Foreman said he now has to scour supermarkets for promotions on food items – showing three pots of cream in his fridge and a lamb shoulder in his freezer – and never fills his car’s fuel tank to the top.
He needs 30,000 euros to fix a leaking roof but has postponed those works, and can’t afford to fix the broken rearview mirror on the car he bought for 600 euros, he said.
A strike is a bother for travelers, he acknowledged, but added that he had no choice.
“Yes, we know that we are taking passengers hostage, but we need to make our voice heard and the only way to do that is with a strike,” he said.
($1 = 0.9543 euros)
(Reporting by Caroline Pailliez; Writing by GV De Clercq; Editing by Richard Lough and Diane Craft)