Paris backs Air France restructure as unions forsee 2,900 job cuts
Details emerged Friday of Air France's alternative restructuring plan, including 2,900 job cuts and possibly the first forced layoffs, as the government publicly backed the airline as it faces off with unions.
Air France-KLM's management on Thursday had given a green light to alternative restructuring plan after negotiations with its pilots' union on an initial cost savings plan failed.
"The number of jobs eliminated will be 300 pilots, 700 flight attendants and 1,900 ground personnel," one union official said.
France's former national airline has shed over 6,000 jobs in recent years, nearly 10 percent of its workforce, as it sought to come to grips with increasing competition from low-cost carriers and Gulf airlines.
However those jobs were cut via voluntary departures.
Chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said insisted he "favoured voluntary departures" and that forced layoffs would be a case of "last resort" as the airline retires 14 long-haul planes and reduces flights.
Unions told AFP they expected at least some compulsory departures.
Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said the government supported the airline's restructuring plans and urged the pilots' and other unions to assume their responsibilities in shaping the company's future.
The state still holds a 17.6 percent stake in Air France.
"You have to look at the figures -- the group's financial, industrial situation is difficult. So you have to carry out reforms and so the government supports the company down the path of reform," Macron said after talks with De Juniac.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls had Thursday urged all sides -- "and notably the pilots" -- to strive for solutions on delivering savings.
Asside from De Juniac's comments, the management of the airline which employed 52,000 at end 2014 did not comment on the purported scale of the impending job losses.
Another source on the airline group's board, which met Friday, said the 2,900 figure had been presented as an estimate of overstaffing in 2017.
"These points were presented to the board for information, but no vote has been taken," said Didier Dague of the FO union.
- Unions blast 'parody' talks -
The airline said details of the plan will be presented to the central company works committee on Monday.
Three unions have called on ground staff to strike on Monday.
Didier Fauverte of the CGT union said the restructuring plan would include retiring five long-haul planes next summer and nine others in 2017.
Management's plan also includes "a reduction in the frequency and capacity" of certain destinations on the long-haul network, half of which are currently loss-making according to management, he said.
But another union source suggested the carrier might opt to drop the withdrawal of the nine planes in 2017 in the event of a new productivity accord with pilots.
The firm wants on-board personnel to agree to fly an extra 100 hours annually without a wage rise -- which the unions emphatically reject.
The carrier, whose long-haul fleet currently consists of 109 aircraft, wants to reduce loss-making parts of its network to 20 percent by 2017.
Air France has indicated for several weeks that it would reduce its long-haul flights by 10 percent if talks with the pilots' unions failed.
De Juniac insisted that he had "not closed the door" on the unions and urged them to demonstrate they could "come back with a real project and a true desire to negotiate."
Speaking to AFP, SNPL pilot union president Philippe Evain said: "It's for us to have a project -- as he doesn't!"
The SNPL blasted the negotiations so far as "a parody", accusing Air France's management of having always sought to push through their alternative plan from the outset.
Air France's share's gained 1.04 percent to stand at 6.05 euros in late trading in Paris, but have fallen by over a quarter in recent months as the talks with pilots ran into difficulties.
© 2015 AFP