There were chaotic scenes in Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport today as a coordinated strike by Air France workers saw thousands of passengers stranded when the airline was forced to cancel up to 50% of its long-haul schedule. Several unions that represent staff at the French carrier had called a 24-hour stoppage in protest at a proposed 1% pay rise.
In a statement, Air France said it hoped to operate 75% of its flights today although there are suggestions the number of cancelleations will exceed the optomisitc figure set by the airline. Long-haul flights were said to be worst affected but Air France said it hoped to operate 75% of medium-haul services and up to 85% of short-haul flights.
Unions, including UNAC and SNPNC are unhappy with the 1% pay offer – especially in light of the KLM Air France Group’s recent financial results. Just last week, the combined company said it had made an operating income of €1,488 million in 2017 – up 41.8% on the previous year.
UNAC said the 1% offer showed a “contempt towards our corporation” – telling its members that a strike would show airline managers their “exasperation”. According to the union, staff at the airline have already endured six years of salary blocking.
Yet, despite last year’s record financial performance (and a strong start to 2018), there have been concerns raised in the past that the Air France side of the business was not been pulling its weight. In 2016, allegations were thrown around that the KLM side was “propping up the group” after unions resisted cost-cutting measures at Air France.
Workers at the airline are represented by a number of different unions and not all of them have joined in today’s strike – Air France estimates around 28% of staff will walk out, including a signigicant number of cabin crew.
Up until last night, Air France was still finanlising its schedule despite France’s so-called Diard Law which require’s workers to give their employer at least 48-hours notice of their intention to strike.
The unions are calling on airline execs to offer more concessions although Air France hasn’t publicly commented on this matter yet. Whether unions are set to call further strikes remain to seen.
KLM managed to avoid its own cabin crew strike in January after a seperate dispute about pay and working conditions at the Dutch carrier.