Labour disputes roll across Europe

French
air traffic controllers are in the second day of a four day strike causing
havoc for travellers.

As
labour unrest continues to roll across Europe, half of the flights out of Orly
Airport in Paris, France and 25 per cent of flights at Charles de Galle airport
have been cancelled through Saturday.

The
action comes a day after German-based Lufthansa and its pilots’ union agreed to
suspend its
standoff

and return to the bargaining table. The suspension will expire on 8 March,
barring an agreement before then, both sides said in a Frankfurt labour court.

 British Airways cabin crew have also voted to
strike
,
although no dates were announced.

Unite,
the union that represents the workers, said it is continuing negotiations with
the airline.

Like
Lufthansa pilots, British Airways staff are concerned about wages and job
security as larger, older airlines deal with the twin blows of the global recession
and increased competition from low-cost carriers.

“These
are not mindless militants looking to bring the company down, these are
ordinary, decent people who do a highly professional job, and very evidently
they have a deep set of grievances,” Len McCluskey, assistant general
secretary of Unite told CNN.

European
airlines were not the only ones hurting. Japan Airlines de-listed its shares
from trading in Tokyo Saturday as part of its bankruptcy restructuring. And in
Australia, Qantas Airlines announced this week it would eliminate first class
travel from its flights.

Beyond
the airline industry, other labour disputes are spilling into industrial action
in Europe. French gas giant Total said about 100 of 4,000 gas stations in the
country are beginning to run out of fuel as a strike by oil refinery workers
enters a second week.

And
in Spain, trade unions are holding large protests in Madrid, Barcelona, and
Valenca today, against a government plan to raise the retirement age from 65 to
67.

Widespread
strikes are also being held in Greece over austerity measures the government
plans to implement to cut its large public debt, which has caused stock market
jitters and concerns that sovereign debt problems will spill across the world.