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CGT Air France: “There’s No Desire to Grow the Airline”

Translated Wednesday 14 October 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

Interview. For Mehdi Kemoun of CGT Air France, “Manuel Valls demonstrated irresponsibility” in criticizing “the workers, but not management’s plan” which is disastrous for the airline.

Mehdi Kemoun, deputy general secretary of the CGT union at Air France.

You condemn the “physical assaults” but every bit as firmly "the [announced] layoffs." What characterizes the violence of layoffs?

Mehdi Kemoun: We condemn the physical assaults and indeed every bit as much the announcement of 3,000 layoffs at Air France, that is 3,000 families that will find themselves out of work. Since 2012, they have demanded that the workers make an enormous effort, notably under the Transform plan. They’re suffering from it, and there have even been, for the first time, suicides. Moreover, the personnel in all of the job categories came together outside the airline’s headquarters to say ‘stop.’ This was a very strong image that most of the media did not transmit, stopping at the image of the director of human resources’ torn shirt. But beyond that, we were promised investment and development after the Transform plan. One year on, they’re announcing to us that in the end, the new plan, Perform, will be an attrition plan [a fall in the number of passengers – editor’s note] and a layoff plan. This is unacceptable and incomprehensible. The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, is demonstrating irresponsibility when he criticized the employees but not the plan of management, which he supports.

What are the causes of the airline’s problems?

Mehdi Kemoun: In France, since 2007, there hasn’t been any air transport policy. The airline has been abandoned to the financial markets with the government’s complicity. For the flying personnel, for example, the 100 extra flight hours really mean 48 hours of work a week. Besides the fact that this is the legal maximum in Europe, this will have a negative impact on the future and on the airline’s quality, as will the withdrawal of airplanes from the fleet. If you offer fewer airplanes and hence fewer seats, the passengers will necessarily turn to other airlines and will not come back. And we are squeezed in a vice between the subsidized airlines of the Gulf and the low cost airlines. There’s no desire to grow this airline, despite the declarations of some executives and ministers.

What are the alternatives to this cost-cutting?

Mehdi Kemoun: From the start, we’ve asked for an independent mission on the strategy, followed by a round table discussion among all of the trade unions, the government, and Air France management, to discuss growth, industrial strategy, productivity… Because it isn’t by opposing the employees, by compartmentalizing the social/labor dialogue, that one can determine a viable strategy.

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