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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Air France supprime 5120 salariés pour redécoller

by Charlotte Helias

Air France Axes 5120 Employees to Take Off Again

Translated Thursday 21 June 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The airline announced on the morning of June 21 that it intends to axe over 5,000 jobs. The measure follows its “Transform” plan aimed at lowering the airline’s costs and reducing its debt. Management is promising not to resort to a lay-off plan … on condition that the trade unions ratify its proposals.

The management of the Air France-KLM airline confirmed on the morning of June 21 that it intends to shed 5120 jobs by December 2013 in order to limit expenses. The cut represents about 10% of its payroll. To accomplish this, the company is counting on 1700 natural departures (retirements, reorientations…), that is, a little less than the figure previously anticipated by management. Thus management is envisaging a voluntary departure plan for the 3,400 undesired jobs that remain. For the moment, management refutes any intention of laying employees off, except if on-going negotiations with the trade unions break down. But this contract smells of blackmail. “If the new contract is signed, the terms for the treatment of superfluous workers will exclude recourse to forced departures until the end of 2012,” Air France warned at its June 21 central committee meeting.

Reorganization of work schedules and part-time work.

To do this, the company intends to encourage early and voluntary retirement in the coming year. The jobs that are mainly concerned are those held by ground staff, estimated at 32,000 workers of the 53,000 workers the company employs. Jobs in the industrial sector should also be affected by this measure. The number of aircrew personnel (stewards and hostesses) should be reduced partially thanks to the non-replacement of natural departures. On the other hand, their work schedules are going to be reorganized to improve productivity.

As to pilot jobs, of which there are also too many, they will be regulated thanks to monthly part-time work and freeing pilots for one to two years to work for other airlines. The company is to present its final transformation plan on June 28. The trade unions will have until early July to ratify the proposals.

Interviewed on Europe 1 radio, Labor Minister Michel Sapin said he “encouraged” the negotiations. “There is labor dialogue in the company to arrive at this adaptation. I don’t know if this labor dialogue alone will be conclusive, but it is a matter of discussions between company management and the trade unions.” Michel Sapin also declared that the state – which holds a 15% stake in the airline – “is looking at what management is proposing, and /…/ encourages this dialogue which should, I hope, allow the company to return to financial equilibrium” without having recourse to “outright layoffs, with people left jobless. That’s not the question that’s being raised here.”

Air France wants to attack its rivals aggressively.

Air France thus hopes to reduce its non-fuel costs by 20%. In January, Air France-KLM announced a three-year transformation plan to reduce its net debt by two billion euros and balance its budget. The increase in fuel prices and the arrival on the market of low-cost airlines caused Air France to lose around 800 million euros in 2011, and the airline’s debt now stands at 6.5 billion euros.

In addition to its budget cuts, the airline wants to expand its low-cost subsidiary Transavia. It also hopes to win back the fidelity of its Business class customers. To do so, it plans on an investment plan of around 600 million euros over a three-year period. “The transformation plan is not limited to cost-cutting,” explained Bruno Mathieu, the general director of sales for Air France.

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