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Air France: a sad and excruciating strike day

10% of the long-haul network could disappear

In spite of the major protest of workers from all sectors and the violent acts committed against the human resources team, Air France’s leadership remains uncompromising. It expects to apply its attrition plan that projects a 10% reduction of the long-haul network and the shedding of 2,900 jobs.

Rédigé par Laury-Anne CHOLEZ translated by Joséphine Foucher le Mardi 6 Octobre 2015

Around one thousand people protested against the attrition measures implemented by Air France’s leadership. DR - LAC
Around one thousand people protested against the attrition measures implemented by Air France’s leadership. DR - LAC
A ripped shirt.

This is the symbol of the violent rupture in the social dialogue between Air France and its unions.

Indeed, the mobilization on Monday, October 5th in front of Air France’s headquarters in Roissy during the Central Works Council meeting called to ratify the network’s attrition, took a wrong turn.

Several strikers entered the building through the parking lots which prompted an immediate stop of the Works Council and the departure of Frédéric Gagey, CEO.

But two human resources representatives, Xavier Broseta, Human Resources Deputy Executive Director, and Pierre Plissonnier, Air France’s Long-Haul Activity Director, were violently targeted by the protesters.

Violently hustled, they had to be exfiltrated by the police and escaped running half naked to then climb over a 2 meters-high metallic fence.

Strikers determined to fight

These acts of violence were condemned by all union representatives, and of course, by the company’s leadership.

In total, five employees from human resources were harmed along with two security guards, with one who was severely hurt and fell into a coma. He is still hospitalized.

The company is expecting to file a complaint for aggravated violence.

“What happened today does not reflect the true face of the company,” declared Xavier Broseta during a press conference that look place on Monday afternoon.

“I refuse for disgrace to be thrown on the employees or even unions. These events will not hinder my determination,” he ensures, clearly shocked.

This incident, as reprehensible as it is, illustrates the tension of the protest and the anger of employees.

Around one thousand people had gathered in front of the headquarters in order to oppose the restructuring measures implemented by the leadership.

Union bodies demanded the resignation of Frédéric Gagey, Air France’s CEO, and of Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of Air France - KLM held responsible for the economic state of Air France.

Some even listed what they consider to be the “management errors” of the leadership: investing in Alitalia, the capital loss from the CityJet sale, the various fines for undeclared work, the severance pay to former directors.

Taxes, the competition of Gulf companies were also reprimanded, along with the government who was accused of not taking responsibilities.

Workers from all categories oppose the job cuts

The ripped shirt of Xavier Broseta, Air France’s Human Resources Director. DR-LAC
The ripped shirt of Xavier Broseta, Air France’s Human Resources Director. DR-LAC
However, there is zero animosity towards pilots. “The management body wanted to create a divide between us and pilots. But they (the pilots) came to explain their situation to us and we understood their position,” exclaims Eric, a ground personnel.

In fact, representatives of the SNPL attended the strike, along with many pilots. “All of the employees are united to keep their jobs. There is no divide,” ensures Paul Miedan, from the Pilots’ Union.

A sacred union that was confirmed by the leadership. “We need to act as a collective entity. Company cohesion must come before everything else,” adds Frédéric Gagey.

Despite the mobilization, the company does not consider stepping back and is determined to apply its Plan B in two parts.

Between now and summer 2016, it will reduce flights on less profitable lines, through the interruption of 35 weekly frequencies.

The hardline removal of 5 long-haul lines will not be effective until 2017. “But, in any case, we are not completely abandoning the field and we are keeping a presence on these destinations thanks to our partners,” specifies Jean-Charles Trehan, Communications Director.

In the end, 10% of the long-haul network could disappear.

Due to a lack of growth, Air France is canceling the order of five Boeing 787, one in full ownership and 4 in leasing.

A cancelation that should take place without major financial penalties according to the leadership. “Many operators will be glad to obtain the delivery of Boeings faster than expected,” states Jean-Charles Trehan.

Frédéric Gagey leaves the door open to resume negotiations

Ground Personnel and Air Crew personnel all united against the attrition of the Air France network. DR-LAC
Ground Personnel and Air Crew personnel all united against the attrition of the Air France network. DR-LAC
Finally, this attrition will lead to the removal of 2,900 jobs: 300 pilots, 900 cabin crew, and 1,700 ground personnel.

Here again, these job cuts will take place in two steps: 1/3 by 2016 and 2/3 by 2017.

Frédéric Gagey repeated that he will avoid, to the extent possible, redundancies with no severance pay, expect for sectors where “dialogue is impossible.”

But everything isn’t lost just yet.

The CEO highlighted that the company should end the year with a positive operational margin. He states being ready to resume dialogue on the basis of new concrete propositions with the representative organizations.

And reaffirms his ambitions for Air France. “I was not elected to manage this company to witness it being relegated. But growth is not a right, it must be earned.”

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