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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Transport aérien. Trois suicides chez Air France à Marseille

by Loan Nguyen

Air Transport:Three Suicides at Air France in Marseille

Translated Thursday 24 January 2019, by Paula Smith

Published in l’Humanité on Monday 7th January 2019

Three employees from the air transport company at Marignane airport have lost their lives in the last few weeks. The CGT, FO and CFE-CGC are calling for strike action today.

The link to work conditions is not clear, but the recurrence is enough to pose questions to the airline company. Between the middle of November and the end of December 2018, three airline staff from Marseille-Provence at Mariganane (Bouches-du-Rhone) – an airline mechanic and two ramp agents - have taken their own lives at home, as stated by the CGT on Thursday. The management of the group has concluded that these suicides ‘correspond to different personal situations’ adding that ‘the families, close ones, and colleagues of these employees will be supported’, in particular through ‘the means of the organising of psychological support for those who wish to use it.’

If Didier Pacione, the representative of the SNMSAC-Unsa in Marseille does not see a direct link between these suicides and the work conditions, he does, on the other hand affirm that the deceased airline mechanic whom he knew personally had confided to his spouse that he suffered with ‘work related stress’ a short while before taking his life. ‘He was in the process of completing a training course in order to work with the airline Hop (subsidiary of Air France - NDLR) where the market has improved recently. "He would have had to validate the training course by an examination, which could have been a stress factor", he explains, emphasizing, never the less, that this employee was in any case receiving treatment for depression of a personal nature.

But for the CGT, who are calling today along with FO and the CFE-CGC for strike action for the Marseille platform, and the deterioration of work conditions, causing increasing ill-feeling for the employees of the company. On a national level the union is seeking a meeting with the General Director of Air France-KLM, Ben Smith, recalling the last suicide in March 2018 of an employee of the company at Nice, who pointed, in a letter, towards pressures put upon him in his profession. To attempt to shed light on the potential link between these three last deaths in Marseille and the company management, an important health and safety meeting will take place on Wednesday.

"Things have been aggravated by the arrival of a local new management team in 2016, who announced on their entry their wish to suspend the equivalent of 180 full time posts", affirms Aime Musto, the general secretary attached to the CGT Air France and union representative of CGT for the Marseille flight route. "They have begun by breaking solidarity, individualising posts, and changing our work schedules", explains the union member, who believes that the local management has "energetically" applied the enterprise agreement in 2013 in relation to work hours signed by the CFDT, the CFE-CGC and FO. This wording allows the management to modify the schedule of the floor staff with only seven days warning and at any given moment, with staff agreement. "It happens that the management changes scheduled times for lone parents on days when they are responsible for their children. A large number of employees have expressed discontent, concerning these practices, to the inspectors and the "medecin du travail" reports Aime Musto.

51% of employees state that they are concerned about the stability of their job.

To the point that the CGT has tried to start a legal alert for serious danger which is imminent in the context of CHSCT, which would have failed due to a lack of majority. A study measuring work satisfaction conducted by the National Agency for improving work conditions (Anact) and the regional decline, L’Aract in June 2017, shows in any case that the dissatisfaction in relation to the company is valid, especially for employees of clients and even more so with those from the airplane division, to which belonged the three agents who recently died. In this last sector the level of satisfaction of the respondents in relation to acknowledging the quality of work and the consideration of personal problems were only 20%. From all categories there were 49% to conclude that the work conditions were unsatisfactory, 54% deemed that work and personal life combination was problematic. There was also a majority (51%) to say they were worried about the stability of their job.

In order not to appear totally oblivious to the debate on work conditions, the management of Air France has announced putting meetings in place to reflect upon the organisation of work with "all employees from that flight route willing to participate".

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