Workers attack Air France managers, forcing them to flee
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.
(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.