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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Air France. Quand le gouvernement sort la matraque

by Loan Nguyen

Air France: When the Government Uses Its Big Stick

Translated Tuesday 20 October 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

One week after the incidents at the central works council meeting of the airline, repression has already started to come down: six workers were questioned yesterdays and disciplinary sanctions will likely follow.

“As my counterpart at Qatar Airways said regarding (the pilots’) strikes, Mr. de Juniac [1], at our company this would not be possible, they all would have been sent to prison.” Was this provocative witticism from the president of Air France during a meeting of bosses in December 2014 premonitory? One week after the turbulent meeting of the central works council at Air France, where management announced the axing of 2,900 jobs, triggering the anger of numerous demonstrators who laid into the shirts of a director of human resources and the Orly director of long-haul flights, the French ministry of the interior did not shilly-shally in arresting six freight and maintenance workers on October 12, including four at their homes at daybreak.

According to the C.G.T., two or three among them are C.G.T. members. So Prime Minister Manuel Valls has caught his “louts” and the right wing is also jubilatory at seeing strikers treated like criminals. For example, François Fillon (“Les Républicains” political party) stated that “I’m not going to cry. The police operate that way with everybody, including with political leaders,” and he condemned “trade union terror.” However in a press statement the Parti de gauche points out that “We can’t remember similar treatment of a Cahuzac, of a tax cheat or of a loutish boss.”

The C.G.T. at Air France demands that the judicial proceedings be dropped.

In addition to these arrests, the first notifications of sanctions were to be sent on Oct. 12 by management to the workers that it believes it has identified as having participated in the incidents, a source close to the case stated to the Agence France Presse. The sanctions could include dismissal. “If management takes the liberty of sanctioning people at a time when the police investigation has not ended, it will be taking big risks, because some of them may be cleared,” Mehdi Kemoune, the deputy general secretary of the C.G.T. at Air France, emphasized. He pointed out that his trade union was backing the arrested workers and was demanding that the judicial proceedings against them be dropped.

1,700 of the 2,900 threatened jobs concern ground personnel.

Since Oct. 9, anxious to maintain a façade of social dialog while they haul out the stick behind the scenes, the directors of the airline have resumed discussions on their wage reduction plan, while taking care to meet separately with each trade union organization. “The root of the problem is that management is continuing to compartmentalize social dialog. Even should they arrive at an agreement with the pilots, what of the other categories of personnel?” Mahdi Kemoune asked concernedly. He repeated that 1,700 of the 2,900 threatened jobs concern the ground personnel, who have already suffered greatly under the preceding restructuring plans.

Late in the afternoon, a big support rally for the six workers was organized at the call initiated by the C.G.T. The call for the rally won the backing of the SUD aérien trade union, of the national secretary of the French Communist Party, who is also leading the Front de Gauche list for the Ile de France regional elections, and of the leaders of the départemental lists, Eric Coquerel (Party of the Left) and Clementine Autain (Ensemble).

[1Alexandre Marie Henry Begoügne de Juniac, né le 10 novembre 1962 à Neuilly-sur-Seine

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