Work­ers at­tack Air France man­agers, forc­ing them to flee

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY LORI HIN­NANT

Union ac­tivists protest­ing pro­posed lay­offs at Air France stormed the head­quar­ters dur­ing a meet­ing about the job cuts Mon­day, ze­ro­ing in on two man­agers who had their shirts torn from their bod­ies, scaled a fence and fled un­der po­lice pro­tec­tion.

An As­so­ci­ated Press pho­tog­ra­pher saw about a hun­dred ac­tivists rush the build­ing af­ter break­ing through a gate. Shortly af­ter­ward two high- level man­agers fled, one bare- chested and the other with his shirt and suit jacket shred­ded.

Alexan­dre de Ju­niac, the CEO of Air France- KLM, had an­nounced Fri­day the com­pany would have to cut jobs af­ter fail­ing to reach an agree­ment with pilots. French media, cit­ing the unions, on Mon­day re­ported a pro­posal to slash 2,900 jobs.

De Ju­niac said the com­pany was be­ing squeezed by low­cost air­lines in Europe and Gulf car­ri­ers for long- haul flights. Mon­day’s meet­ing was in­tended to de­tail the cuts, which he told Europe 1 ra­dio would be “sig­nif­i­cant.”

Among those at Mon­day’s pro- test was Yves Porte, an ac­tivist who rep­re­sents cargo work­ers.

“At a cer­tain mo­ment, the Gulf com­pa­nies, who have low fuel prices and who re­ceive gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies, com­pete with us. It’s im­pos­si­ble, we are not on a level play­ing field,” he said.

Air France said it would file a com­plaint for ag­gra­vated as­sault.

Although Mon­day’s scuf­fle was un­usu­ally vi­o­lent, la­bor re­la­tions in France are com­monly testy, with unions some­times even re­sort­ing to hold­ing man­agers hostage — or “boss- nap­ping” — to make a point.

France’s trans­port sec­re­tary, Alain Vi­dalies, con­demned the vi­o­lence, say­ing in a tweet it was “un­ac­cept­able and must be pun­ished.”

Job Cuts An­nounced un­der

New Restruc­tur­ing Plan

Air France- KLM un­veiled de­tails on Mon­day of a re­vamped restruc­tur­ing plan which unions ex­pect will lead to some 2,900 job losses.

Talks with pilots on an ini­tial restruc­tur­ing plan broke down last week, prompt­ing man­age­ment to lay out an “al­ter­na­tive” ver­sion in­volv­ing around 2,900 job cuts — some com­pul­sory, which would be a first for the car­rier.

The air­line is strug­gling in the teeth of fierce com­pe­ti­tion from global ri­vals and had sought to win pilots’ agree­ment to fly 100 more hours an­nu­ally for the same salary, a re­quest re­jected as an ef­fec­tive pay cut.

Unions no Fri­day blasted man­age­ment for press­ing on with a re­vised plan af­ter car­ry­ing out a “par­ody” of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The al­ter­na­tive plan is, the car­rier says, de­signed “to guar­an­tee the eco­nomic ob­jec­tives and the com­pany’s fu­ture” by sharp­en­ing its com­pet­i­tive edge against main Euro­pean ri­vals Lufthansa and Bri­tish Air­waysIbe­ria.

It in­cludes mea­sures such as a 10- per­cent re­duc­tion of long­haul flights, a de­lay in its or­ders for Boe­ing 787s and re­duc­ing its head­count.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Alexan­dre de Ju­niac in­sisted Fri­day he fa­vored vol­un­tary de­par­tures and that forced lay­offs would be a case of “last re­sort.”

But CEO Fred­eric Gagey has in­di­cated re­dun­dan­cies are “a pos­si­bil­ity” as “oth­er­wise we would not make hoped for progress in terms of pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

It is un­der­stood the car­rier, Europe’s largest air­line in terms of traf­fic which em­ploys 52,000 peo­ple, will shed 300 pilots, 700 air hostesses and stew­ards and 1,900 ground staff.

A board source last week in­di­cated the 2,900 fig­ure had been pre­sented as an es­ti­mate of over­staffing in 2017 for the air­line, in which the French state main­tains a 17.6- per­cent stake.

The com­pany al­ready shed 5,500 posts via vol­un­tary de­par­tures be­tween 2012 and 2014 as it bat­tled com­pe­ti­tion from low­cost car­ri­ers and Gulf air­lines.

Air France, which merged with Nether­lands- based KLM in 2004, is now ex­pected to re­tire 14 long- haul planes and re­duce flights as it seeks to cut costs over two years by 1.8 bil­lion eu­ros.

The French gov­ern­ment has backed the board, with Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls urg­ing pilots to get be­hind the restruc­tur­ing plan. “If Air France does not evolve then it puts it­self in dan­ger,” Valls said at the week­end.

AP

(Left) Air France Di­rec­tor of Hu­man Re­sources Xavier Broseta, cen­ter (back to the cam­era), pro­tected by se­cu­rity guards tries to flee the Air France head­quar­ters at Roissy Air­port, north of Paris, dur­ing scuf­fles with union ac­tivists, Mon­day, Oct. 5. (Right) Air France union ac­tivists break through a gate as they storm the head­quar­ters to dis­turb a meet­ing at Roissy Air­port, north of Paris, Mon­day.

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