As other airlines celebrated International Women’s Day on Thursday by operating ‘special’ female only operated flights, Air France instead announced a big change that marks more of a longterm change to greater gender equality. A new collective agreement promises to fight sexism and stereotypes, as well as promoting equal opportunities for all genders.
It’s the fifth such agreement Air France has signed with its employees and will remain in force for the next three years. The agreement focuses on four priorities – diversity, opportunities for women, supporting parents and combating sexism.
The broad agreement won the backing of five unions which represent staff at the airline – representing around 90% of the airline’s workforce – although the measures will apply to all Air France staffers, including flight attendants.
In a statement, the airline said the new agreement will build on existing measures but a number of other improvements should also make Air France a more inclusive and equal employer of choice.
Notably, Air France says it will be targeting differences in pay between male and female employees. The company plans to evaluate “persisting wage gaps” with the aim of reducing pay differences between male and female staff who do similar roles – although, unfortunately, the airline doesn’t mention whether it thinks it can completely eliminate pay disparity.
Other initiatives include a plan to fight sexism and gender stereotypes – including raising awareness about equality and diversity in the workplace. Interestingly, this may well involve a similar plan to one recently introduced by Qantas who issued guidance to its workers on how to use ‘gender-neutral’ language to avoid causing offence.
Air France also hopes it can encourage more women to take up roles in traditionally male-dominated aviation careers, especially in “technical professions”.
Of particular praise is the airline’s plan to support staff, especially flight attendants, who want to become parents. They’ll be making it easier for pregnant staff, including cabin crew, to work from home and providing more flexibility for breastfeeding mothers.
Measures will also be taken to offer more support for employees wishing to adopt and staff will be given more flexibility to share parental responsibilities.
Strike could cause disruption on March 23rd
But this agreement with unions doesn’t mean all is well at Air France. Staff are still incredibly unhappy with a plan to increase pay rates for front-line employees by just 1% and have already held a one day strike on 22nd February in protest.
Now, we’ve learnt several unions are organising a second strike which is set to go ahead on 23rd March unless Air France meets their demand of increasing pay by 6%. The UNAC union says the airline has been “salary blocking” for the past six years despite recent profit increases.
The airline has not yet publicly commented on whether it will agree to the union demands or how its operation might be affected if the strike goes ahead.