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Air Afrique Employees Announce Boycott - 2001-11-20


Employees of the West African airline Air Afrique have announced a boycott that may threaten to disrupt the multi-national carrier's vital Europe flights. The action is part of an ongoing dispute over efforts by Air Afrique's joint owner, Air France, to reorganize the financially troubled West African airline.

The employees are angry over efforts by Air France to have Air Afrique lay off about half of the West African carrier's 4,000 workers.

The French airline says job cuts are essential in its effort to reorganize Air Afrique, which has been struggling to stay in business under a debt estimated at more than $400 million.

Under a deal reached in August between France and the 11 former French colonies that own Air Afrique, Air France was to increase its ownership of the West African carrier from 11 percent to 35 percent. Air Afrique owners at the time chose to hike Air France's participation in the airline believing that a large infusion of capital by France would avert massive layoffs of African employees.

In announcing the planned boycott, Air Afrique employees union leader Adote Ghandi Akwei accused Air France of neglecting the interests of African workers while trying to position itself in what analysts say is the potentially lucrative West African market.

Mr. Akwei says, "Instead of trying to help Air Afrique, Air France is working to create a quasi-monopoly for itself in the region."

The union accuses Air France of not letting Air Afrique employees take part in the reorganization process. There was no immediate comment from Air France officials following the boycott announcement.

The workers' three-day boycott of Air France is set to begin on November 26. The union says Air Afrique workers who handle passenger check-ins, ramp services, and baggage for Air France will stage a deliberate slowdown to delay Air France flights to and from West African countries.

The union's action threatens to further disrupt air travel in the region. Airline schedules in West Africa are often sporadic, and business travelers sometimes find themselves having to connect through Europe to get from one West African capital to another.

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