In France, work­ers get some­thing off their chest

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - BY JENA MCGRE­GOR jena.mcgre­gor@wash­post.com

And you thought ten­sions were run­ning high be­tween work­ers and man­agers at your com­pany.

In France last week, protest­ing union ac­tivists rushed in­side Air France head­quar­ters, storm­ing a meet­ing about job-cut plans, ac­cord­ing to news media re­ports. The clash led to two Air France ex­ec­u­tives hav­ing their shirts torn from their bod­ies and leav­ing un­der po­lice pro­tec­tion, scal­ing a fence as they fled.

The scuf­fle came dur­ing a meet­ing in which Air France ex­ec­u­tives out­lined a plan to cut 2,900 jobs. Man­agers would en­cour­age vol­un­tary de­par­tures, but if enough peo­ple didn’t raise their hands, the re­main­ing work­ers would be forced out, the first forced cuts at the air­line since the 1990s, ac­cord­ing to the Fi­nan­cial Times.

The lay­offs come as the air­line is be­ing pres­sured by both bud­get car­ri­ers in Europe and Per­sian Gulf car­ri­ers on longer flights to Asia. In a state­ment posted on its Web site, Air France KLM Group, the par­ent com­pany of Air France, said it “strongly con­demns the phys­i­cal at­tacks that took place on the fringes of this Works Coun­cil, which were per­pe­trated by par­tic­u­larly ag­gres­sive iso­lated in­di­vid­u­als.”

France is not a stranger to hos­til­i­ties be­tween work­ers and their bosses. Early last year, French unions held two Goodyear ex­ec­u­tives overnight at a com­pany tire plant — a prac­tice called “boss-nap­ping.”

In 2009, Bloomberg News re­ported, Cater­pil­lar in­creased its sev­er­ance pack­age for work­ers af­ter a hostage-tak­ing of four ex­ec­u­tives. The same year, work­ers held a 3M man­ager hostage— serv­ing him a take­out meal of mus­sels and fries dur­ing his de­ten­tion — but even­tu­ally freed him and opted to take the is­sue to court in­stead. An ap­peals court later ruled in the work­ers’ fa­vor.

KENZO TRI­BOUIL­LARD/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Of­fi­cials help an Air France ex­ec­u­tive flee af­ter he lost his shirt in a scuf­fle with union ac­tivists who had stormed a meet­ing on job cuts.

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