Air France could once again face yet more crippling strikes – walkouts at the airline have already cost the airline in excess of €600 million this year alone. Yesterday evening a coalition of unions which represent various staff groups including pilots and cabin crew at the airline announced plans to walk out on four consecutive days between the 23rd to 26th June.
Workers have already held 15 days of strike action over a dispute about a pay raise for all staff at the French national carrier.
Announcing the planned strike, the unions said in a statement that Air France management was once again proposing a pay raise which would be spread out over several years – an offer which has already been rejected by workers in an internal ballot and one which led to the resignation of the airline’s chief executive, Jean-Marc Janaillac. The unions are demanding an immediate 6% pay raise for all staff.
Reacting to the news, Air France said the planned strikes were “incompatible with the collective interest”, saying it didn’t show “concern” for the future of Air France. The airline has previously said the strikes could jeopardise the very future of the company – executives have warned that Air France simply can’t afford to bow to the demands of the unions.
The French government, which owns a 14% stake in Air France, has also said it would not bail out the airline – the country’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire has told workers that the airline must become more competitive in order to compete with the likes of Germany’s Lufthansa. A failure to modernise (read, cost cutting) would see the Air France brand “disappear” he warned.
In the last few days, French hotel brand, AccorHotels has signalled that it might be interested in acquiring the government’s stake in Air France.
Air France is currently being run by a trio of leaders, including interim non-executive chairwoman Anne-Marie Couderc. She has told workers that there is a “deep-rooted malaise” affecting the airline which goes way beyond the issue of pay. Couderc had been seen as a conciliatory figure who has been negotiating with the unions ever since Janaillac stepped down – what her next move is, remains to be seen.