Conservatives challenge market-distorting Air France worker bailout

16-Dec-2014 @ 19:0

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Conservative MEPs today opposed French demands for a multi-million pound bailout to offset the redundancy obligations of ailing Air France.

The criticism came as the European Parliament voted through payments totalling more than £17 million for helping nearly 4,000 French workers who face redundancy as the national carrier loses out to overseas competition. The payment was proposed by Italian MEP Marco Zanni, a member of Nigel Farage's  EFDD Group in the Parliament.

Tories criticised the funding as a distortion of the market and unfair support for a struggling French industry.

The €21.6 million pay-out will be made under the so-called  European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which was originally set up to provide retraining and support for individual communities hit by industrial collapse through global market forces.

But Conservatives fear the fund is increasingly being used to protect inefficient companies by providing backdoor funding for restructuring and relocation operations.

In this case, the pretext for funding Air France's redundancies is that they were caused by commercial pressure created by three Middle Eastern airlines – Etiad, Emirates and Dubai.

Budget spokesman Richard Ashworth said: "We have become increasingly concerned that instead of aiding stricken communities such as mining villages or steel towns hit by closures, the fund is helping massive companies offload onto the taxpayer their social responsibilities to their workforce.

"The Air France demand is a prime example of growing abuse of the system.  Airlines in the UK are all over Europe are facing exactly the same challenges, but they are not claiming public money. All they want is an opportunity to compete fairly and let customers choose.

"Europe should be facing up to global challenges, not helping major national companies duck them."

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