French economy minister Le Maire says Air France 'will disappear' unless crisis stops

Brendan Smialowski, AFP (archives) | French economy minister Bruno Le Maire at an IMF forum on April 20 2018.

France’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire said Sunday that Air France employees must resume dialogue with bosses and restart efforts to improve the company’s competitiveness, otherwise the airline “will disappear”.


“I appeal to the sense of responsibility of everyone involved: flight crew, ground staff, the pilots asking for unjustified pay increases,” he said on French TV news channel BFMTV. “Take responsibility – Air France’s survival is at stake.”

Le Maire added that “the state is not there to pay off the company’s debts”.

Air France’s CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac resigned Friday after the wage agreement he proposed was rejected in a vote by the company’s employees. However, the board of directors asked him to stay on until May 15, when a new “transitional” leadership will be put in place.

Until new management plans are in place, Air France executives lack a mandate to continue negotiations with unions, prolonging the dispute.

For their part, the unions have confirmed that they will be going on strike on May 7 and 8. The Air France management plans to ensure that “nearly 85 percent” of flights will go ahead on Monday, which will be the fourteenth day of this wave of strikes.

Some worker representatives hit back at Le Maire on Sunday, after he called their demands unjustified.

Unions had been calling for a salary hike of 5.1 percent in 2018 alone, and staff rejected a management pay deal offering 7 percent wage increase over four years.

"Our demands are far from astronomical," Yannick Floc'h, vice-president of the SNPL pilots union, told BFM TV later in the day, adding there was room to find middle ground between the two sides. "I think we can find a way out."

But the strikes seem to be weakening. For example, a mere 14 percent of pilots are expected to take to the picket lines, compared to between 27 percent and 36 percent in February, March and April.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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