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Sabena faces more action from disgruntled staff

Sabena's troubles continue

(Keystone Archive)

The Belgian airline, Sabena - half-owned by Swissair - suffered more disruption to its services on Thursday as pilots walked out in protest at restructuring plans aimed at slashing the company's losses.

The carrier was forced to cancel almost a third of its morning flights after the pilots responded to their union's call for industrial action. They are protesting plans to abolish a system of promotion based on seniority.

The pilots' action is the latest in a series of strikes that have hit the airline since management embarked on measures to rein in huge losses. Early last month, Sabena's ground crew walked out for two days before the release of plans designed to make the group profitable by 2005.

The pilots' union has offered to reduce its members' working hours to help the company cut costs and avoid redundancies.

According to the company's restructuring plans released last month, 1600 jobs are to be axed at the airline, which made a first-half loss of SFr209.5 million ($123.5 million). It is also embarking on a disposal of assets, which will see its catering, cargo handling and maintenance services sold off. In addition, the aircraft fleet will be slimmed down and some routes cancelled.

Swissair has a 49.5 per cent stake in Sabena with the rest owned by the Belgian government.

Swissair recently agreed to contribute the lion's share of a new SFr650 million capital injection into Sabena. In return, the Belgian government agreed to release Swissair from an obligation to increase its stake in the ailing carrier to 85 per cent once aviation agreements with the EU have gone through.

Swissinfo with agencies


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