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Portuguese airline TAP running reduced service as two-day strike kicks off

FILE PHOTO: A TAP Airbus A330 plane departs Guarulhos international airport in Sao Paulo

LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese flag carrier TAP is running a reduced service as its cabin crew stage a two-day strike to demand higher salaries and better working conditions.

The strike, called by the national SNPVAC union representing cabin crew staff for Dec. 8-9, had already forced TAP to cancel 360 flights. The airline said it was only operating the "minimum services" decreed by a court.

SNPVAC president, Ricardo Penarroias, told Lusa news agency the majority of TAP cabin crew had decided to walk out but said they were still available to negotiate with the airline to avoid further strikes until the end of January.

Penarroias told Dinheiro Vivo news site that strikes over the Christmas and New Year period were on the table, a move that would have a significant financial impact on TAP, which has already lost 8 million euros in revenue due to the ongoing action.

The ailing airline, 72.5% controlled by the Portuguese state, was saved by a 3.2 billion euro rescue plan approved by Brussels. It has reduced its fleet, cut more than 2,900 jobs and lowered wages in an attempt to return to profit in the next few years.

However, SNPVAC has demanded the company unfreeze pay progression and respect maternity leave and rest periods. It described TAP's proposed labour agreement as "absolutely unacceptable".

Surging inflation across Europe has seen millions of workers struggle with higher living costs, prompting unions to demand pay increases, often via strikes and protests.

The pace of consumer price growth has slowed in Portugal but inflation is still near three-decade highs.

Apologising to its customers, TAP said it remained available to negotiate with SNPVAC and that it had already accepted nine out of 14 demands made by the union.

"We will manage the situation, but we want to sit down at the table (with the union) and see how we can progress in a more constructive way," said TAP CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)