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Air France: a useless protest?

Management confirms the cut of 1,000 jobs


While wage negotiations are still on hold, thousands of people protested on October 22, 2015, against the job cuts at Air France. A battle that reinforces the determination of those facing the management, that still will not make any concessions. It now remains to be seen who will succeed in reconciling them.



Thousands of people gathered on Thursday, October 22nd, to protest their opposition to the job cuts at Air France. DR-LAC
Thousands of people gathered on Thursday, October 22nd, to protest their opposition to the job cuts at Air France. DR-LAC
1pm. The protest of Air France’s employees was barely beginning and the Edouard Herriot plaza, behind the National Assembly palace in Paris, was already swarming with people.

According to the police, the plaza can hold 10,000 people. The CGT Union predicts 7,000 participants.

The protesters sing the song “tomber la chemise” [“drop the shirt” - translator’s note] from the group Zebda, the voices buried under the raucous noise of whistles and firecrackers.

The flags of many unions are floating in the sky.

Those of Air France, of course, but also those of other professional categories: railroad employees, RATP, hospitals, national education, or other road transporters.

Many senators also came to show their support to the employees.

The atmosphere is a lot more political than the protest of last October 5th, during which the Human Resources Director’s was harassed and lost his shirt.

Protesters call the government to take responsibility

In fact, five employee are being sued for their role in this incident.

They were stopped by the police in the early morning, “like criminals” claims an outraged protester. Some are selling stickers or sandwiches for which the contributions will be given to the arrested colleagues.

Two calls for contributions were even launched, enabling to collect close to 30,000 euros.

But when it comes to the heart of the issue, the demands have not changed one bit since last October 5th. The employees are still asking for a moratorium on the Perform Plan and call on the State’s responsibility.

“The government is holding a contradictory discourse. On the one hand, it wants to fight unemployment and on there other, its board representatives at Air France agree to a job cut plan,” rants Claude Allaire from Sud Aérien.

Outside of the protest, a delegation of union representatives was welcomed at the National Assembly by Daniel Goldberg, a Socialist Party Deputy from Seine-Saint-Denis.

Very attentive to their grievances, he promised to refer the matter to the company’s management. He also offered hearings by the commission of Social Affairs, Economic Affairs, and Sustainable Development of the Assembly. In other words, nothing very concrete.

The economic alert procedure was voted in

The protesters in support of their colleagues accused for the violence during the October 5th protest. DR-LAC
The protesters in support of their colleagues accused for the violence during the October 5th protest. DR-LAC
Amongst the protesters, it seems that employees hardly understand why their company accumulates losses while air transportation is showing record growth.

“The fill-up rate of our planes is over 90%,” remarks Claude Allaire. “Either we are badly managed, either our CEO prefers to develop the low-cost branch rather than Air France,” he adds.

“Employees would be willing to make efforts if the company weren’t sacrificing all of the growth pillars in the profit of paying back the debt. It is as if we had to make it ‘sellable’,” adds Pierre-Henri Lienemann, of the UNSA Union.

He works in the IT Department and laments that the average age of his service is of 52 years old, without any new hires since many years. “It is a very bad sign if a company does not invest in new technologies,” he believes.

All of them rejoice over the economic alert procedure, voted in unanimously on Thursday, October 22nd, during the Central Works Council (CCE.)

Specifically, this procedure enables to “know the origin and extent of the economic difficulties encountered by the company and to ensure that the considered measures by the management are appropriate.” (article L.2323-78 of the labor law.)

Some hope that this will force the management body to provide more details and numbers on its financial situation. “For example, we were never given a true a assessment of the results of our bases in the province,” adds a protester.

Various irreconcilable elements between employees and management

On its end, the management is tightfisted in terms of giving informations.

To avoid any spillage, it relocated the Works Council in the house of Maison des Arts et Métiers in the 16th arrondissement, in Paris.

In the middle of the day, Frédéric Gagey, the CEO of Air France-KLM confirmed the cut of 1,000 jobs in 2016, without specifying the breakdown.

According to a document presented to the Works Council, the job cuts on the 2016-2017 period would be up to 2,993 equivalent at full time, meaning around 1,823 jobs for ground personnel, 890 for air crew, and 280 for pilots.

Meaning that negotiations once again seem to be at a standstill. “It would be necessary to nominate a mediator, a person from the inside who knows the case well and who could make things move forward,” offers Didier Dague, administrator who represents employees (FO.)

A task that the new Human Resources Director, Gilles Gateau, former deputy director of the cabinet of Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, will not be able to accomplish.“Even if you are very intelligent, how do you hope to learn, in just a few weeks, the 234 employment agreements that govern employees,” asks Didier Dague.

Yet, it will be necessary to find a fireman to extinguish this fire that risks to irremediably damage a company symbolic of the French industry.

Written by Laury-Anne CHOLEZ translated by Joséphine Foucher the 25/10/2015
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Tags : Air France

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