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Sabena Pilots Call One-Day Strike

August 31, 2001

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Pilots at Belgium’s troubled Sabena SA airline on Friday announced a one-day strike for next week to protest planned layoffs in the airline’s rescue plan.

Geert Vertongen, vice president of the Belgian Cockpit Association, said the 24-hour strike next Thursday was being announced beforehand to allow travelers to change their plans.

Union members met Thursday night with Sabena management to offer alternatives to its proposed restructuring plan, which calls for more than 1,400 job cuts.

That includes up to 222 of the airline’s 1,100 pilots, Vertongen said.

Vertongen said the pilots offered to work fewer hours for less pay _ ``whatever is necessary to avoid layoffs.″ He said that would also save Sabena the cost of severance packages.

Sabena president Christoph Mueller said in a statement that an evaluation was underway ``to calculate all financial consequences of the ideas.

``What counts for Sabena management is the ability to secure a viable future for all employees of Sabena,″ he said in a statement, adding that from the suggestions, ``only figures and not principles″ can play a role.

Talks between Sabena and its unions are to continue early next week.

Sabena’s board approved in early August a plan to turn around the money-losing airline that calls for laying off 1,421 of the airline’s nearly 13,000 employees, cutting back routes and capacity and selling off subsidiaries.

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