MEA Pilots Plan 24-Hour Strike On Thursday

April 28, 2010

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Pilots from Lebanon's Middle East Airlines (MEA) will begin a 24-hour strike from Thursday in an effort to claw back benefits they lost when the flag carrier was restructured in 2001, the Lebanese Pilots Association said.

The strike will start at 6 am (0300 GMT), Mahmoud Houmany said. Airport sources said 24 MEA flights were scheduled to take off and land at Beirut airport on Thursday.

"This means no flights for MEA will take off for the duration of the strike," Houmany said.

MEA underwent major restructuring from 1998-2002, helping it reverse losses and return to a USD$22 million profit in 2003, according to its website.

Over 1,000 employees were made redundant during the overhaul and pilots were issued with new contracts that increased their hours and cut back their benefits. Staff fiercely resisted the overhaul, holding a series of sit-ins and strikes.

MEA posted a net profit in 2009 of over USD$100 million. The airline, set up in 1945, is majority owned by the central bank.

MEA's management has always hoped to privatise the airline but plans to float some shares on the stock market have been repeatedly delayed.

(Reuters)