Violence erupted on Monday at the Charles de Gaulle airport in France as protesters stormed the offices of Air France executives. Human resources chief Xavier Broseta and the head of long-haul flights Pierre Plissonnier had to scale an eight-foot fence in order to escape the crowds. Broseta escaped with his shirt off – literally – while Plissonnier’s suit was torn to bits.
The violent altercation took place after Air France informed its employees that 1,700 ground staff, 900 flight attendants and 300 pilots may lose their jobs. Failed talks between management and employees led to the announcement.
Air France released a statement that, “These attacks were made by isolated and particularly violent individuals as the demonstration by personnel on strike was going on calmly.” The company also stated that it would file a complaint for aggravated assault with France’s transport secretary, Alain Vidalies, condemning the violence as “unacceptable and must be punished.”
Air France unveiled the plan to reduce its workforce as it is being squeezed from all sides. The company cannot effectively compete with low-cost airlines in Europe and Gulf carriers for long-haul flights. Air France tried to reach a deal with its employees in order to come to some sort of cost-cutting resolutions, but to no avail. As a result, the company had to make a move.
Acknowledging the company’s troubles, a cargo worker representative, Yves Porte, pointed out that, “The Gulf companies, who have low fuel prices and who receive government subsidies, compete with us. It’s impossible, we are not on a level playing field.”
As part of its cost-cutting plan, Air France announced that in addition to cutting jobs, it would cut the number of routes, reduce its fleet by 14 jets as well as scrap orders for more Boeing jets. It will also phase out its Airbus Group.
The company tried to reach a deal with employees to cut the annual losses that began in 2011. The French government urged both sides to continue talking in an effort to save the jobs.
In past efforts to offset costs, Air France Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac announced a plan to establish a low-cost airline located outside of France. He was defeated when Air France crews went on strike for two weeks – costing the company $564 million.
Despite the protests and related violence, Air France will not back down in its plans. Broseta stated that, “We are fighting every day for an Air France that will have lasting growth. Violence and intimidation will have part of that.”