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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 16:17 GMT
Lebanese pilots accept pay cuts
Feature from Middle East Airlines website
Middle East Airlines operates nine planes
Pilots at Middle East Airlines, Lebanon's flagship carrier, have been forced to accept unfavourable new contract terms.

Last week, the pilots were told they must agree to fewer benefits and more working hours or else be replaced by foreign pilots.

The pilots union said it was still trying to negotiate with the airline, but that the pilots had been left no choice but to sign up.

The union is considering taking the dispute to court, but is not planning a strike.

Privatisation candidate?

Middle East Airlines has lost $450m (283m; 444m euros) since 1996 and is desperately trying to cut costs.

The airline's chairman, Mohammed al-Hout, pressed for a cabinet decision earlier this month to allow the airline to employ foreign pilots.

Mr al-Hout brought in wide-ranging cost-cutting measures eighteen months ago, including 1,200 job losses.

The Lebanese government is hoping to make the airline more attractive for a privatisation that could help whittle down the country's $29bn of public debt.

The central bank bought the airline in 1996, saving it from bankruptcy.

See also:

16 Sep 02 | Business
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26 Jun 01 | Middle East
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