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Air France Pilots Strike Amid Euro 16 Football Championship

Passengers walk in Nice Cote D'Azur International Airport in Nice, France, one of the host cities for the Euro 16 football championship, June 10, 2016.

Air France pilots went on strike Saturday in pursuit of better working conditions, while France was hosting the European football championship, Europe's biggest sporting event.

About one-fourth of the airline's pilots were striking. Air France said it canceled about 20 percent of both domestic and international flights Saturday.

The strike affected flights carrying spectators to cities where the Euro 16 football matches were being played.

Philippe Evain, president of Air France's main union, SNPL (Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne), said the situation was “totally absurd.” He blamed “management's inability to reorganize its schedule" despite efforts by pilots to limit the strike to short shifts.

"There have been a lot of canceled medium-haul flight,s and we've really thought about Euro 2016 fans," he said. "That's why we decided to divide this strike in several shifts of two to three hours, which allowed the company to reorganize its planning. We don't know if it was a deliberate choice or its incapacity to do so, but our senior management decided in many cases to cancel flights."

In the past two days, Air France management and the union have not conducted any negotiations, and there are no meetings planned until Tuesday.

Weeks of strikes and demonstrations have been part of a nationwide labor action in response to a bill that would allow employers more freedom to lay off workers and extend working hours.

The socialist government of President Francois Hollande hopes the bill will energize hiring and the economy, but unions see it as a threat to the fundamental rights of workers.