Air France has had quite the shake up during a corporate meeting Monday morning. It would seem that employees are none too pleased with recent developments. An angry mob of hundreds of employees swarmed those in attendance at a meeting about massive job cuts. Perhaps as poetic justice for planning to take their shirts, the employees struck back and ripped shirts from two of the managers fleeing the office. In order to actually get away one executive had to scale a fence and leave under police protection.
The group was prepared. They waved banners and flags as they stormed the meeting. Given historical evidence, those inside at the time should count their stars that the protesters left their guillotines at home.
Unions had called for a strike at the launch of the meeting, but things dissolved into chaos quite quickly. What was it that had the workers so riled up?
Well, at the meeting a plan was to be announced to the central committee for Air France that 2,900 jobs would be cut from the roster and 14 airplanes would be grounded in a radical effort to restructure and cut costs.
The cuts would layoff 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew members, and 300 pilots.
The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said that not only did he support the board, but that he was “scandalised” by the aggression on behalf of the workers. Yet, that may not be the tone of a man sympathetic to some executives getting roughed up, but one who know that the French government owns a 17.6% stake in the company and could see huge losses if the airline’s cost-cutting measures don’t pan out.
The airline is planning to file a legal complaint against those in attendance at the riot.
No one seems to have clean hands in this debacle, considering that just last year Air France saw the longest strike in its history when pilots refused to compromise on a salary agreement. They were in arms because the airline was asking them to spend more time in the air without an increase in pay. The recent unveiling of job cuts was due in part to the hard line the pilots took during negotiations.
The company has been floundering in the face of new, more competitive, airlines emerging and is desperate to rebrand and restructure to make up for its recent losses which total in the billions.
It seems that the unions are asking for something that the Air France can’t give– money.
The strikes and failed negotiations with the unions may plunge Air France irrecoverably into the red. Then everyone would be without a shirt, won’t they?