Sun, May 06, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Staff forces Air France-KLM boss out

AFP, PARIS

Air France-KLM chief executive officer Jean-Marc Janaillac on Friday announced his resignation after staff at the carrier’s French operations rejected a pay deal aimed at ending months of walkouts.

“I accept the consequences of this vote and will tender my resignation to the boards of Air France and Air France-KLM in coming days,” said Janaillac, after 55.44 percent of Air France workers voted against accepting a pay rise of 7 percent over four years.

Unions said the increase was too little after six years of pay freezes and demanded a 5.1 percent raise this year instead.

Staff and management at the carrier have been locked in a dispute over pay since February.

Friday’s vote came as workers embarked on a 13th day of intermittent strikes, prompting the cancelation of one-quarter of flights on average.

Janaillac, who had been in the post for less than two years and staked his future at the company on staff accepting the deal, deplored their decision as a “huge waste.”

“Air France was on the road to success. I regret that that dynamic was not understood [by staff],” the 65-year-old said.

The company said in a statement that he would officially resign on Wednesday.

The announcement of his departure came as Air France-KLM released its first-quarter earnings, which showed a net loss of 269 million euros (US$322 million), weighed down by three days of strikes, which cost about 25 million euros per day, the company said.

The group said the dispute would shave at least 300 million euros off its operating profit for the full year, pulling earnings “notably below” last year’s 1.9 billion euros.

The French government, which owns a minority stake in the group, is watching the situation closely given the general atmosphere of discontent roiling the country, with rail workers, public servants and students also protesting a wide-ranging reform drive.

Unions were divided on the outcome of the vote, which had an 80.33 percent participation rate.

“It gives us added legitimacy, contrary to what management wanted,” said Christophe Campestre, spokesman for the pilots’ union Spaf, one of those arguing that pilots, cabin and ground crew deserve “their share of the pie” after six years of belt-tightening.

However, the moderate CFDT union, which is not taking part in the strikes, said that Janaillac’s departure “augurs a troubled period for our company and a serious management crisis, which Air France cannot afford, given the economic and competitive environment in which it is operating.”

Management had warned that Air France’s finances were fragile and that competition from carriers in the Gulf as well as low-cost operators in Europe remained stiff.

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