French HEMS pilots go on strike

 - January 30, 2009, 5:29 AM

Pilots flying helicopters for the French hospitals’ emergency medical services–Samu, under the French acronym–were scheduled to go on strike on January 30 to protest long hours, low wages and pressure exerted on unionists. On January 19
the French pilot union–SNPL, the French equivalent of ALPA– broke negotiations with those operators who employ pilots for Samu services. These talks were being held under the aegis of the civil aviation authority (DGAC).

Eight months ago, after previous strikes, the pilots signed an agreement with the employers, but SNPL is claiming the agreement is not enforced.
The pilots are also challenging the government’s oversight of labor laws.

The SNPL’s first demand is that employers honor the “commitments the employers and the DGAC made at the end of the previous conflict.” Maybe most important, pilots are clamoring for the government to publish long-awaited enforcement decrees, which would allow it to impose penalties on employers who breach agreements. At stake are alleged exhausting rosters and unpaid extra hours. A 2007 report showed that pilots were sometimes faced with illegal rosters.

The union is also demanding that “the Ministry of Health open negotiations on the organization of helicopter emergency medical services.” In addition, it is seeking better wages, including retroactive pay for 2008. Finally, the union is demanding that employers recognize employees’ freedom to unionize and stop any
form of pressure against union representatives.