- Arrests prompt further protests at carrier's Paris HQ
- Government standing behind CEO de Juniac on cost-cuts plan
Five Air France staff were held overnight for questioning by prosecutors following last week’s violent attacks on managers at a meeting on job cuts, with the arrests triggering more protests by employees.
The workers, all male, were detained by police on Monday and can be interrogated for 48 hours before being released or charged. No names have been revealed and no one had been indicted as of Tuesday morning.
Between 150 and 200 protesters targeted Air France’s headquarters and cargo base at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport after the arrests, with the CGT union, which represents ground staff, vowing to continue demonstrations until the five are released, arguing that the police approach had been heavy-handed.
Air France’s human resources chief Xavier Broseta and long-haul flights head Pierre Plissonnier escaped last week’s clashes at a works council meeting with their clothing in tatters after scaling a fence. Broseta later sent a video to frequent-fliers saying the violence didn’t reflect the airline’s “true face.”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has since vowed to back management plans to restore profit after four years of losses. The preferred option, to increase hours while freezing pay, was blocked by pilots, causing the switch to plans to cut 2,900 jobs and 14 aircraft that sparked last weeks turmoil.
While Air France postponed its briefing on the cuts in the wake of the violence, it’s continuing to pursue talks with unions for pilots and cabin crew, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. Discussions will run throughout this week, she said, while declining to provide details of the agenda.
Alexandre de Juniac, chief executive officer of parent Air France-KLM Group, has retained state support after last year being forced by the government to drop plans to establish a low-cost airline outside France when crews staged a two-week strike that cost 500 million euros ($570 million).
Job cuts, including the first mandatory firings since the 1990s, couldn’t be implemented before mid-December given French legal requirements, leaving about two months for the two sides to agree an alternative way forward.