Air France scales back job cuts plan

Pierre Plissonnier Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Air France-KLM human resources director Pierre Plissonnier was forced to flee after angry airline workers attacked him

Air France has slashed the number of jobs it had planned to cut in the wake of angry protests by some workers.

The airline said that fewer than 1,000 jobs will now go, compared with the 2,900 originally planned.

Alexandre de Juniac, chief executive of Air France-KLM, said the job cuts next year would now be voluntary.

Heavier losses in 2017 may still be avoided if unions agree to other cost-cutting measures, he added.

After failing to convince pilots to work longer hours for the same pay, earlier this month the company announced a "plan B" of job cuts and eliminating some routes.

The plan led to scuffles during which two senior managers had their shirts torn off, in the latest example of violent protests by French workers.

Five Air France employees - thought to be members of the CGT union - were arrested last Monday following the violent protests at Air France headquarters in Roissy.

They will appear in court on 2 December.

Seven people were injured in the scuffles, including a security guard who was knocked unconscious. President Francois Hollande criticised the action and said it could harm France's image.

Mr de Juniac said the chaotic scenes had damaged the airline: "It's unimaginable that the whole world now assimilates Air France with these images."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Air France-KLM executive vice-president Xavier Broseta was also forced to flee

The need to finalise flight schedules months in advance meant that Air France had to go ahead with the cutbacks for 2016, the chief executive said.

However, Mr de Juniac said those cuts would affect fewer than 1,000 jobs.

"The 'Plan B' takes place over two years, 2016 and 2017. For 2016 it is under way," he said. "If negotiations are successful by the start of 2016, we can avoid implementing 'Plan B' for 2017."

Air France will discuss the 2016 cuts with union officials at a meeting of its works council on Thursday.

Higher costs

Mr de Juniac said that efficiency measures had put Air France on course to make a profit this year, but he declined to give a forecast.

The airline had higher costs than some rivals and was under pressure from budget operators in Europe, as well as Gulf carriers such as Emirates on long-haul routes.

It posted an annual profit of almost €1.6bn in February, down €266m from the previous 12 months following a crippling strike by pilots last year.

Shares closed on Friday at €6.38 in Paris and have fallen almost 20% this year, valuing the company at €1.9bn (£1.4bn).

In contrast, its German rival Lufthansa is worth €6.3bn.

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