Air France offered on Wednesday to withdraw plans to expand its low-cost subsidiary, Transavia, in an effort to end a more than week-long pilots’ strike over the proposal.
“This proposition addresses the concerns of the social partners and brings a new guarantee that there will be no delocalisation (of jobs),” the airline said in a statement.
The pilots have been on strike for 10 days and have grounded about half of the airline’s scheduled flights. It is the longest such movement to hit the airline – which belongs to the Franco-Dutch group Air France-KLM – since 1998 and has cost the company up to €20 million ($26 million) a day, according to management estimates.
The strike began last week in protest against the airline's plans to expand Transavia, which currently serves holiday destinations across Europe and the Mediterranean. Pilots fear the airline will seek to replace expensive Air France pilots, who can earn up to €250,000 a year, with Transavia pilots who are paid considerably less.
“With the withdrawal of the Transavia Europe plan, there is no longer any reason to strike because there can be no fear of outsourcing,” the airline said in a statement signed by Air France-KLM chief executive Alexandre de Juniac and his Air France counterpart Frédéric Gagey.
The proposal “allows us to end this destructive conflict”, they said.
“We call on the striking pilots to return to work immediately.”
There was no immediate response from the main pilots’ union, the SNPL.
The government welcomed Air France’s proposal and said it was “now the responsibility of the pilots to end the strike”.
French low-cost plans maintained
While proposing to put the European expansion on ice, Air France said it would maintain its plans to develop Transavia France “in competitive economic conditions”.
“Our Transavia project is 100 percent a project for France,” the airline said.
It promised that the project would create more than 1,000 jobs in France, including 250 pilots’ positions.
The announcement capped a fraught day in which Transport Minister Alain Vidalies told a radio station that the Transavia Europe plan had been abandoned, only for the airline to deny the claim and say negotiations were ongoing.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned that the strike is putting Air France’s future in danger.
He said earlier Wednesday that “if abandoning or postponing the Transavia project allows for a solution to the crisis, it is the right solution”.
Air France is nearly 16 percent state-owned.
Not all the airline’s employees back the strike.
Hundreds of Air France workers, including pilots, rallied in front of the company’s headquarters on Wednesday demanding that the striking pilots get back to work.
“I don’t understand the intention of my fellow pilots, I don’t understand why they are striking against growth,” said Jérôme Cormouls, captain of an Airbus A320.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-09-24