France's National Assembly, the lower parliamentary house, has backed a proposal to increase French airlines' crew retirement limits, prompting pilots' union SNPL to call a strike date.

On 31 October the Assembly gave majority backing for French commercial pilots' maximum retirement age to be lifted from 60 to 65 years, and that of cabin crew from 55 to 65. The changes, which require further backing before they enter law, will bring French airlines in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation norms.

French pilot group PNT65 is backing the change and head Jean Serrat told Flight International: "It's a complete success. The two main points [of the age-limit changes] have been voted for by the French Assembly, but staying on beyond 55 and 60 is purely on a voluntary basis."

He adds that crew members' access to tax-free redundancy pay, benefits and pensions at their former retirement limits will be unaffected by the new law.

But the SNPL union has lashed out at the planned changes, arguing that they are unjustified and will have "serious repercussions" on pilot employment, especially given the current economic crisis.

Calling all pilots working for French companies to go on strike for four days from midnight on 14 November, the union says: "The government did not properly consult with pilots' bodies on this subject, which has serious consequences for our safety and that of our passengers."

The strike dates have been timed to coincide with the French Senate's vote on the law proposal, which will take place on 14 November. Serrat says a Senate commission will discuss the proposal on 12-13 November, ahead of the Senate hearing.

But he notes that, as a part of the text is due for amendment, it will have to pass a second National Assembly hearing before being integrated into law. The new rules are set to come into effect on 1 January 2010.

Source: Flight International