TAP Pilot Strike Effect Limited So Far

May 1, 2015

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Portugal's state-owned flag carrier TAP said that 75 percent of scheduled flights had operated on the first morning of a 10-day strike by pilots.

The airline had cancelled 38 out of a total of 156 scheduled flights by noon on Friday, a TAP spokeswoman said.

But a spokesman for the pilots' union told the state news agency Lusa that participation in the strike would rise in the next few days.

The strike comes at the start of the main tourism season and just before a May 15 deadline for bids to buy a majority stake in what is now a wholly state-owned company.

The government has estimated that the strike will cost EUR€70 million (USD$78 million) and affect 300,000 passengers. The tourism sector fears losses of up to EUR€300 million (USD$335 million).

The pilots say the government has reneged on a 1999 deal meant to give them a stake in the airline in the event of a sale. They also want higher pay for longer-serving pilots.

The government has refused, citing an agreement with the unions in January, and has said it will go ahead with the sell-off despite the strike, although it has warned that the strike could further undermine TAP's finances.

After a strike threat at Christmas, the government guaranteed that future buyers of TAP would be barred from laying off workers en masse as long as the state remained a shareholder.

The government is selling 66 percent of TAP, retaining a 34 percent stake that can be sold in two years.

(Reuters)