Air France unions plan to strike amid Euro 2016 tournament

© Philippe Wojazer
The Euro 2016 soccer championship is under threat once again, with three Air France pilot unions calling for their members to go on strike over pay while the tournament is underway. It's the latest action to pose problems for the much-anticipated event.

A spokesman for Spaf (Syndicat des Pilotes d'Air France), the second-largest Air France pilot union, announced the group’s intention to strike on Thursday, saying the action would take place from June 11 to June 14. The move was quickly backed by two other pilot unions, the SNPL and Alter.

The strike is aimed at protesting the pilots' pay, as well as defending the jobs of pilots as competition increases from Air France's budget subsidiaries such as Hop! and Transavia, The Local reported.

The Thursday announcement is the latest in a series of threats aimed at impacting the UEFA 2016 European Championship, which is scheduled to begin in Paris on June 10. An estimated 1.5 million foreign visitors are expected to arrive in France for the event.

It's not the first time that Euro 2016 has been threatened in recent weeks.

Ongoing labor reform protests and strikes continue to hit the country. Almost half of the nation's rail services were brought to a halt on Thursday, and power cuts took place as part of an organized strike by the CGT union.

If French President Francois Hollande continues to refuse to budge on the labor reform legislation – which he says is aimed at curbing the country's high unemployment rate – similar strikes and protests could still be taking place during the tournament's scheduled opening.

The CGT explicitly warned last week that the tournament could be disrupted unless Paris backtracks on the legislation. 

But it's not only the unions making waves against the labor reform law – demonstrators throughout France hit the streets on Thursday, with officers deploying tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.

The ongoing demonstrations and strikes have led to a dip in the tourism industry, with hotels reporting a 30 percent drop in vacationers in recent weeks, The Local reported.

"Reservations are not taking off because of the strike angst. People can see burning cars and protests on television at the moment and it's definitely not the best advertisement for France," Laurent Duc, head of the French hoteliers union UMIH, told The Local.

Speaking specifically of Euro 2016, Duc said: “This should be a time for France to be happy. People from all over Europe and the world to gather together, watch football and go to bars and restaurants. It’s a shame."

However, Hollande told Sud-Ouest newspaper that the biggest threat to the Euro 2016 tournament isn't strikes or protests – it's terrorism.

But despite Hollande's concern, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) said on Wednesday that “French authorities have not received any intelligence that the tournament or specific matches would be the target of terrorist attacks, contrary to what was reported in certain sections of the media.”

The US State Department said earlier this week that “the large number of tourists visiting Europe in the summer months will present greater targets for terrorists,” though it did not mention the Euro 2016 championship by name.