Air France unions threaten more strike action in September

Unions representing Air France workers have threatened to ground more flights in September as a pay dispute with the airline's bosses rumbles on.

Air France unions threaten more strike action in September
Photo: AFP

Air France unions have been holding strike action since February in a bid to earn pay rises across the board.

The 15 days of strikes held between February and June will cost the airline €300 million and saw the CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac resign after a staff vote aimed at ending the industrial action backfired.

The strikes also prompted the government's economy minister to warn that the future of the airline was at stake.

Air France had offered staff a general wage increase of seven percent over four years from 2018 to 2021 in addition to the individual increases of around one percent in 2018.
However unions have been demanding an immediate wage increase of 5.1 percent, after initially demanding a six percent rise.
With no deal in sight unions have threatened more strikes even if Air France do not name a new permanent CEO.

“The dispute over salaries will restart with or without a CEO, from the month of September. Only a satisfactory agreement will end it,” read a statement for the joint union group representing pilots, cabin crew and ground staff.

“The hasty departure of Mr Janaillac highlighted the structural weakness of our organisation. The administrative council does not know how to get over this crisis.”

So anyone with Air France flights booked for September will have to keep their fingers crossed that a deal can be reached, even if that looks unlikely.

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Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs

Air France management said Friday it planned to eliminate 7,580 jobs at the airline and its regional unit Hop! by the end of 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs
An Air France plane lands at JFK airport in New York. Image: STAN HONDA / AFP

The carrier wants to get rid of 6,560 positions of the 41,000 at Air France, and 1,020 positions of the 2,420 at Hop!, according to a statement issued after meetings between managers and staff representatives.

“For three months, Air France's activity and turnover have plummeted 95 percent, and at the height of the crisis, the company lost 15 million euros a day,” said the group, which anticipated a “very slow” recovery.

The aviation industry has been hammered by the travel restrictions imposed to contain the virus outbreak, with firms worldwide still uncertain when they will be able to get grounded planes back into the air.

Air France said it wanted to begin a “transformation that rests mainly on changing the model of its domestic activity, reorganising its support functions and pursuing the reduction of its external and internal costs”.

The planned job cuts amount to 16 percent of Air France's staff and 40 percent of those at Hop!

With the focus on short-haul flights, management is counting mainly on the non-replacement of retiring workers or voluntary departures and increasing geographic mobility.

However, unions warn that Air France may resort to layoffs for the first time, if not enough staff agree to leave or move to other locations. 

'Crisis is brutal'

Shaken heavily by the coronavirus crisis, like the entire aviation sector, the Air France group launched a reconstruction plan aiming to reduce its loss-making French network by 40 percent through the end of 2021.

“The crisis is brutal and these measures are on an unprecedented scale,” CEO Anne Rigail conceded in a message to employees, a copy of which AFP obtained. They also include, she said, “salary curbs with a freeze on general and individual increases (outside seniority and promotions) for all in 2021 and 2022,” including executives of Air France.

The airline told AFP earlier this week that: “The lasting drop in activity and the economic context due to the COVID-19 crisis require the acceleration of Air France's transformation.”

Air France-KLM posted a loss of 1.8 billion euros in the first quarter alone, and has warned it could be years before operations return to pre-coronavirus levels.

Air France has been offered seven billion euros in emergency loans from the French state or backed by it, while the Dutch government approved a 3.4 billion euro package of bailout loans for KLM last week.

The group joins a long list of airlines that have announced job cuts in recent weeks.

Lufthansa is to slash 22,000 jobs, British Airways 12,000, Delta Air Lines 10,000 and Qantas 6,000.