Air France Tensions Return as Pilots Reject CEO's Arbiter Role

  • Union mounts appeal over court decision in favor of carrier
  • Legal confrontation comes as talks had resumed after clashes

Air France is locked in a fresh confrontation with pilots as they challenge its chief executive officer’s role as arbiter in a dispute over a savings plan predating the current round of cuts.

The SNPL union said Friday it will appeal a court ruling confirming Frederic Gagey’s right to take a final decision on measures mapped out in the carrier’s Transform 2015 plan should workers and less-senior management disagree, which he was granted under an earlier accord.

The legal standoff threatens to reignite tensions just as the airline and its unions are talking again following attacks on executives at an Oct. 5 briefing on layoffs. Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of parent company Air France-KLM Group, told its board Thursday that discussions had been promising and that it might be possible to revive productivity-based savings to avoid job cuts.

A day of protest planned by unions representing pilots, cabin crew and ground staff on Oct. 22 could act as a further focus for unrest. The demonstrations have been called in protest at the arrest of five employees police suspect may have been involved in the clashes with management, with labor groups arguing that the men were treated like “terrorists.”

Air France human resources chief Xavier Broseta, one of those attacked, has since been made HR head for the parent company, with Gilles Gateau, formerly deputy director and adviser in the French prime minister’s office, taking up his old position.

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