Air France Management Meeting Turns Violent

Filed Under: Air France, Unions

I can appreciate the process of collective bargaining, and the rights of employees to “protest” contract terms. Heck, Lufthansa’s pilots have been on strike an average of once a month as of late. If they think that’ll get them what they want, more power to ’em!

However, Air France staff took protesting to a whole new level today, when a management meeting to discuss job cuts turned violent, as staff stormed the meeting.

Via The Guardian:

Striking staff at Air France have taken demonstrating their anger with direct action to a shocking new level. Approximately 100 workers forced their way into a meeting of the airline’s senior management and ripped the shirts from the backs of the executives.

The airline filed a criminal complaint after the employees stormed its headquarters, near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, in what was condemned as a “scandalous” outbreak of violence.

Several hundred airline employees had gathered to demonstrate outside Air France’s head office and members of senior management were greeted by an angry crowd shouting and waving flags and placards featuring the company chiefs portrayed as criminals in police mugshots. As executives entered the building, dozens of workers forced their way into the committee room shouting “this is our home”.

The Air France president, Frédéric Gagey, escaped unharmed. However Pierre Plissonnier, vice president of the airline’s Orly airport hub was attacked. Xavier Broseta, deputy director for human resources and labour relations, also felt the workers’ ire and had to flee semi-naked.

This tension comes at a time when Air France is trying to cut costs by axing ~2,900 jobs, including 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew, and 300 pilots.

Watching some of the clips of the violence is disgusting, though sadly this seems to be surprisingly common in France. A few months ago there were big protests against Uber in Paris, whereby several cars were flipped and set on fire.

Bottom line

I understand the frustration many staff at airlines have with management, as they’re often not very good at leading by example. That being said, this is no way to express your displeasure, and certainly paints the company in a bad light.

  1. In all honesty, I think the French labor unions overplayed their hand. They wanted more and as a result, they got nothing. Normally I support the pilots, but in this case they are ruining their company.

    To give some numbers, let’s look at three companies that I think are comparable:

    – AF/KLM
    Number of employees: 94,666 (63,955 AF, 30,712 KLM(
    Number of planes: 368, which means 257 employees per plane
    Number of passengers: 77,450,000
    Profit 2014: -€111,000,000 (2013: -€322,000,000)

    – IAG group
    Number of employees: 59,484
    Number of planes: 459, which means 130 employees per plane
    Number of passengers: 81,700,000
    Profit 2014: €523,000,000 (2013: €569,000,000)

    – Lufthansa group
    Number of employees: 118,973
    Number of planes: 612, which means 193 employees per plane
    Number of passengers: 105,988,000
    Profit 2014: €55,000,000 (2013: €313,000,000).

    So, AF/KLM needs twice as many people per plane as IAG, or 30% than Lufthansa. That’s an amazing difference and you can see that in the profits. The KLM pilots have agreed to working more for less money, to save their company and their jobs. The AF pilots only want more. Well, my French friends: there is no more. AF/KLM is going down the drain faster than yesterday’s lunch. The current situation will end AF/KLM as we know it. Honestly, I think KLM will survive: they needed AF during the merge, but now they make profit. So there will be another group (IAG, probably) that’s interested. AF? Bye bye…

    And then to treat someone like this, I so hope that every single person that took place in these ‘riots’ gets fired faster than I can type the word riot. Unacceptable, childish and horrible.

  2. France needs to get a grip on this sort of thing. Not long ago some managers were held hostage in a similar situation and their Lorry drivers are blockading something or other regularly.

    A right to protest is one thing but it’s getting out of hand in France.

  3. French people can be borderline terrorist and I think we saw the same during the Uber protests. There is also massive antisemitism in France. Really what is good about this country these days?

  4. Lucky, I think the POINT was to paint the company in a bad light.

    As for France, things are complex, and it may be wise for people to keep their uninformed generalizations about that country to themselves.

    In this case, I do think what you’re seeing is similar to that which Nick Hanauer has warned of, albeit an odd example of overly educated pilots attacking a poorly run airline. But make no mistake – this is the last stand of organised labor in a country that hasn’t gone down the path of low-wage America. It is a path that I would fight to avoid, too, if it hadn’t already been lost…

  5. Yeah right, shay, let’s mix everything up: Uber, Air France, and, now, antisemitism (WTF? ). Maybe you want to dig out the2003 anti-Iraq war stand, while we’re at it? (oops, on this one, we now know for sure who was on the right side of history… ). Judging by your sterling knowledge of France, I guess you are American. So, you can be forgiven for not knowing what the terms “free education”, “free healthcare” and “social benefits” mean. However, all these elements of advanced civilisation and social peace do not come free, and are paid for by social contributions. That taxis and mini-cabs pay, but not Uber. UberPop’s activity, ie laundered black labor, had been declared illegal by French courts since January 2015, and still they were operating. Uber WERE the criminals. Americans, who only swear by “zero tolerance”, “it’s against the law” bla bla bla, would have gotten them out of business way before the French did. Shay, your predictible and ignorant French bashing is useless and counterproductive. What is professional, useful and, I might add, sad, are JMR’s cold figures, that accurately picture AF’s current corner situation and the irresponsible blindness on behalf of the most privileged players in this game, ie the AF pilots.

  6. @shay peleg
    Just the 5th richest country in the world with less than 1% of the world’s population.
    Paris is the 3rd most attractive city in the world for foreign investment, in addition of being the most visited one.

    Don’t judge a country based on the behavior of a dozen of people or what you can see in the headlines or tweets. There were thousands of peaceful people demonstrating today. Most unions condemn what happened.
    Obviously, you don’t know a lot of things about France…

  7. Lucky, I don’t think this paints the company in a bad light, it paints these union thugs in a bad light.

  8. @Chris IOW: the French lorry drivers blockading every other day… Please… Did you get the oscar for best outdated French bashing cliché or what? I think I am hearing my former British boss, 15 years ago. Don’t you ever get any news outside the tabloids? Are you still living in the 20th Century? The only disruptions to Trans-Channel traffic I see nowadays are because of migrants wanting to get into the tunnel at Calais to go to the UK, and this is not the French government’s fault, in spite of white your beloved Express or Sun might say. The French population and Eurostar users are suffering because migrants are lured into the pseudo ultra-capitalist UK paradise, home of the 0 hour contract and 0 identity card. Then, of course, the country which is unlucky enough to be on the other side of the strait has to pay for that.

  9. Maybe that is what we need to do here in the US. Upper management gets paid millions and the workers get crumbs.

  10. This regretably, is just the beginning, we live in an age of an unprecedented gap between the rich and the rest if us!
    Go to you tube and watch the 2 part documentary,
    The super rich and us!
    Whilst i dont condone the violence, why is it a problem for pilots to fight for maintain their generous wages and conditions, whilst no questions raised re managements?
    We ceratinly dont want to see countries go down the american path!

  11. When SAS nearly went bust 2 years ago, the staff did not attack the management. The situation there was even more dire. France is doomed if it cannot face down a movement that believes that the 33 hour work week was just the beginning of further work-week reductions. Unions have done a lot of good historically in many parts of the world, but French unions are deluded if they think the current situation is sustainable. They’re not against exploitation. They’re against work, period, having crusaded for the 33-hour work-week and then described it as a way station to further hours reductions. Union activity in France ensures that youth unemployment remains very high and that even many university graduates must rely on a series of temporary contracts, because no sane employer wants to hire someone full-time (for fear of bringing on board another entitled union member who cannot be terminated no matter how poor the performance). France consequently drives talent abroad — particularly to Britain, which helps to explain the massive French professional expat community in London.

  12. @Ronald, what you said.

    I’ve got news for all you Corporate/CEO apologist, This is just the beginning. Bravo to the French workers for standing up for themselves, something no American worker would ever do nowadays. Of course, if you tried this in the USA, the police at the very least, would beat you to a pulp and then the mainstream media would label you as a “terrorist” for trying to stand up for your rights Also, I love all the comparisons with other airline employees pay. Did you ever think that maybe those other airlines employees are underpaid saps.

    By the way, in the time it took me to write this email, Meg Whitman just laid off another 3000 employees at HP. But I’m sure Meg will do the right thing and cut her huge salary, bonus and stock options as a show of solidarity….hahaha.

  13. @Jack : as usual, automatic French bashing goes together with total contempt of facts. 1) It is not “the 33 hour week”, it’s the “35 hour week”; 2) contrary to what the Anglo-Saxon right wing press hints at, it doesn’t mean that you cannot work beyond that limit, but that beyond 35 hours your work is considered overtime; 3) It doesn’t mean anything, since most branches have negotiated specific agreements and that in 10 years of government, Sarkoyzy and his employer cronies have not judged it necessary to abolish this now empty shell in spite of a solid parliamentary majority; 4) according to Eurostat’s official figures, that combine full time and part time workers, the average weekly working time in France (37.5 hours) is above the EU’s (37.2), as well as Germany’s (35.3)… or the UK’s (36.5). France has fewer disposable/”mini”/”0 hour” jobs than Germany or the UK, and its productivity is one of Europe’s highest : OECD calculated a rate of 125.5 (vs 106.3 for Germany and 109.6 for the UK). Actually, this is one of the factors explaining the high unemployment rate in France: to perform a specific task, you will only need 10 French employees, but in the UK it would be 12, so, of course, these over-performing workers “create” 2 unemployed people, as it were. The cost of labour is another thorny issue. In other words, there are plenty of real factors to explain the French high unemployment rate, but “unions” is definitely not one of them: 8% of the work force is unionised (and 80% in the public sector), vs 28% in red UK… You should let your Telegraph down and its Thatcher-era grid to “analyse” the mores of these awful “Europeans” and research actual facts on the internet. It would save you some embarrassment.

  14. At one point you can imagine that they have to fire the CEO and all the directors because they are not able to do their jobs : they can’t run the company so fire them instead of 2900 employees ( who earn many time less ).

    One sentence from the protesters : ” fire the bosses, keep the planes”.

    Not to mention that the actual CEO is not against Child Labour… You’re fired!

  15. These employees have a correct amount of anger towards a system that continually takes money out of the hands of the working class and puts it into the hands of the rich.

    Americans are conditioned to defend and support capitalism no matter what. Even as salaries shrink, jobs evaporate, everyone is in poverty, and the rich become richer.

    It’s like the chickens voting for Colonel Sanders for president.

    The only shocking thing about this situation is that it doesn’t happen in America on a daily basis. If we weren’t conditioned by our public education, media, and society to defend capitalism – If we were actually able to open our eyes and see what is happening and where our money is going, we would and should be just as outraged and incensed as these employees.

  16. Vinnie – you seem to have your knickers in a french twist. Facts are facts. The French hate to work and want something for nothing. They have a long history of cowardice but take on airs of bravery by negatively commenting on the rest of the world.
    They are dilettantes who have no substance and these days have tragically little style.

  17. “Facts are facts”. Indeed, I see nothing but a series of scientific, mathematically supported facts in your diatribe. Congratulations.

  18. I’m quite ashamed being french now…

    Air France is talking about these reform for so long and after waiting for years, now they have to take even more drastic measures !

  19. @Mark, you’re just being sarcastic, right? If not, you need to stop embarrassing yourself. Go peddle your drivel on the Faux Nooz site.

  20. It’s good to see both ‘sides’ taking stands: the French are lazy and the Americans only care about corporate profit. Great, that’ll get us somewhere.

    Remember what I wrote in my first reply? AF/KLM need 257 employees per plane, while BA needs 130. Heck, even Emirates needs less people per plane (although marginally: 254) and they don’t have any narrow body airplane. At a short glance: less than 40% of AF/KLM’s fleet is long haul

    So really, no matter which side you’re on, the numbers already say enough. AF pays more per passenger kilometer, so will make less per passenger kilometer, so is loosing money, so should fix it. What do you want? A job in which you will have to work more or no job at all? Those are the options. It just seems like the French unions are too busy defending something that won’t work to realize they should finally cooperate and do what the Dutch unions did: think about the future and forget about the past. Once again: KLM will survive. Air France won’t. Period.

  21. JMR, you obviously chose a side, corporate/management. The “settle for no pensions, less pay and reduced benefits so that you can keep your job” theory has really worked great for the disappearing middle class over the past 30 years. Add into that massive additions of low-skilled workers, HB-1 Visas and you have every CEO’s dream and every laborers nightmare race to the bottom.

    Virtually no wage growth for the past 20 years and a 1977 (!) level of labor force participation rate in the US. It seems that many people are choosing to just quit rather than ridie the endless one-way road of reduced wages, benefits and expectations. You must be happy to see that Wall St will will enjoy yet another year of record wages/bonuses in 2015. I hope they all send a thank-you note to the Fed.

  22. @RoIT: Yes, in this case I chose their side. Because it’s the only solution here. In the case of Delta, who are making a load of money, I chose the employees. I’m not talking about the US, not comparing it to any other country, just comparing it to their competitors. And those competitors (Lufthansa Group, IAG) clearly show they do more with less.

    So instead of shouting how bad ‘Corporate Inc’ is, please open your eyes. Look at the real situation: AF is about bankrupt. The pilots have (one of) the best jobs in the industry: best paid, best contracts. It’s not sustainable, sorry. If it were, I’d say it.

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