Airline Unions in France Not Happy with New Ceo Choice by Air France

Air France

Several unions in France have expressed disappointment with the selection of Benjamin Smith as the new head of Air France KLM. Smith is a former executive of Air Canada.

The unions cite their reasons for disagreement with the choice as the beliefs that Smith will seek to lower wages for airline employees and will prove ill-equipped to be the CEO needed to fight on behalf of the airline's national interests.

The bitter dispute taking place over employee wages and working conditions between Air France KLM and multiple unions began in 2014. The problem grew worse in the fall of 2015 when the airline announced a restructuring plan that would decrease the number of employees by 2,900. This number includes 1,700 ground workers, 900 members of cabinet crews, and 300 airline pilots.

The anger of the dispute reached a dangerous level in October of the same year when a mob of disgruntled employees stormed a meeting being held by Air France management and force executives of the company to flee for safety. Two company executives had their shirts ripped from their bodies and were forced to climb a fence to escape the 100 or so angry workers. The photos of the incident were seen globally via the internet and news outlets.

Unions have expressed a desire to see a six percent across the board increases in salaries for employees whose wages have been frozen since 2011. Employees chose to reject a proposal by the airline that would have provided a one percent pay raise for the current year.

The estimates of the Air France are that strikes by employees in 2017 cost the company about 325 million Euros. The unions are promising that more strikes are imminent. Air France explains that the 25 million Euros daily that would be lost due to the strikes is money that hurts the airline by depleting resources that could be used for the purchase and updates of planes along with the creation of new jobs.

The previous CEO of Air France, Jean-Marc Janaillac, resigned in May following a two-week strike by workers that were accompanied by repeated refusals to accept wage proposals from the company.

The 46-year-old Smith will take over as CEO on September 30 and will become the first headman of Air France that is not native to France in the company's history. Nine unions have released a joint statement in protest of the hiring.

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