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Strike at Sabena continues

Sabena pilots have rejected a restructuring plan agreed on Wednesday between management and unions

(Keystone Archive)

Pilots at the Belgian carrier Sabena, which is half owned by Swissair, are continuing their strike after refusing to accept a restructuring plan agreed on Wednesday between management and unions. The plan envisages the loss of 1,400 jobs and the cancellation of several European and intercontinental flights.

Belgian media reported on Saturday that half of Sabena's flights had been grounded because of the strike.

The Belgian Cockpit Association (BCA), which represents the airline's 1,100 pilots, called on its members to take industrial action because it did not think the company had enough funds to implement the strategy.

Sabena's chief executive, Christoph Müller, warned the BCA that the strike could jeopardise the airline's survival. "Any destructive action at this point would kill Sabena," he told Belgian television.

Müller has previously said that the carrier would go under by the end of the year unless the restructuring plan was adopted.

The pilots were not involved in negotiations about the restructuring programme because the Belgian Cockpit Association is not considered a union.

Sabena - whose other shareholder is the Belgian government - aims to become profitable by 2004.

Swissair itself has also embarked on a major reorganisation after mounting losses and debt. On Monday, it unveiled a plan that will lead to massive job cuts and the reduction of its long-haul network by a quarter.

The airline industry has long been grappling with the problem of over-capacity in the sector. Since the suicide attacks in the United States, the situation has deteriorated and airlines around the world have announced thousands of job cuts.

swissinfo with agencies

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