AIR FRANCE WORKERS ASSAULT EXECUTIVES
(P1) STRIKING staff at Air France demonstrated their anger with management by forcing their way into a meeting of the airline’s senior management and ripping the shirts from the backs of the executives.
(P3) Photographs showed one ASHEN-FACED director being led through a BAYING crowd, his clothes TORN TO SHREDS. In another picture, the DEPUTY head of human resources, Xavier Broseta, left BARE-CHESTED after workers ripped off his shirt and jacket, is photographed being pushed to safety over a fence.
(P4) TENSIONS between management and workers at Air France had been building over the weekend in the RUN-UP TO a meeting aimed at finalising a controversial “RESTRUCTURING plan” involving 2,900 REDUNDANCIES between now and 2017. The proposed job losses involve 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots.
(P6) Laurent Berger, secretary general of the CFDT, said the attacks were “UNDIGNIFIED and unacceptable”, while Claude Mailly, of Force Ouvrière (Workers Force) said he understood Air France workers’ EXASPERATION, but added: “One can fight management without being violent.”
(P7) Manuel Valls, France’s prime minister, said he was “SCANDALISED” by the behaviour of staff and offered the airline chiefs his “full support”.
(P9) Several hundred airline employees had gathered to PROTEST outside Air France’s head office and members of senior management were greeted by an angry crowd shouting and waving flags and PLACARDS featuring the company chiefs PORTRAYED as criminals in police MUG SHOTS. As executives entered the building, dozens of workers forced their way into the committee room shouting “this is our home”.
(P10) The Air France president, Frédéric Gagey, escaped UNHARMED. However, Pierre Plissonnier, vice-president of the airline’s Orly airport hub, was attacked.
(P11) Afterwards, Broseta told a press conference that he was “SHOCKED and disappointed” by the attack, but added: “What we saw this morning is not typical of company staff.” He said: “I’ve received hundreds of messages of sympathy from union representatives and colleagues.”
(P12) The French finance minister tweeted his support for the attacked men. “Those who engage in violence are IRRESPONSIBLE. Nothing can replace social dialogue,” Emmanuel Macron wrote.
(P13) The French employers organisation, MEDEF, blamed an “irresponsible minority” for “UNACCEPTABLE and scandalous aggression”.
(P14) Air France was founded in 1933 and in 2004 MERGED with the Dutch airline KLM to create the world’s fifth-largest air transport company.
(P15) Increased competition from Middle Eastern rivals and budget airlines recently prompted the group to seek a reorganisation and €1.8bn (£1.3bn) savings. The company is also planning to close five LONG-HAUL routes and sell off 14 of its larger, long distance aircraft.
(P16) On Monday morning, before the demonstration, Philippe Martinez, secretary general of the powerful CGT union, told RTL radio: “For several years now, SUCCESSIVE heads of Air France have suggested rescue plans … each time, it’s a BOTTOMLESS PIT with the same suggestions. I believe they are trying to set one lot of us against the other. We need a real expert APPRAISAL of the situation.” He admitted that Air France had been HARD HIT by the DEREGULATION of the industry and the popularity of low-cost airlines.
(P17) Before the meeting, a government official, Stéphane Le Foll, said all parties had to get ROUND THE TABLE to THRASH OUT an agreement. “I call on everyone, especially the pilots, to make an effort,” he told France Inter radio.
(P18) After the violence, Air France said the committee meeting would be POSTPONED until Monday afternoon, before cancelling it altogether. In a statement, the airline said executives were willing to NEGOTIATE with workers but “under certain conditions”.
(P19) Alexandre de Juniac, president of Air France-KLM, said the group condemned “the physical violence that took place around the executive meeting”, adding that it nevertheless “does not ALTER the management’s willingness to continue discussions”.
(P20) It is not the first time French workers have taken matters into their own hands with violent results. Since 2009, as the global economic crisis has escalated, several bosses have been HELD HOSTAGE by angry staff.
(P21) In January 2014, workers at a Goodyear factory in northern France prevented two managers from leaving and said the pair would be held until the company gave a “satisfactory response to requests”.
(P22) Olivier Labarre, director of BTI, a human resources consultancy, told Libération newspaper in 2009: “This happens elsewhere, but to my knowledge, taking the boss hostage is typically French. It’s the nature of the social dialogue in our country.”
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- Are worker strikes common or uncommon in your country?
- Has there been any labor violence in your country in recent years?
- Do you worry about the possibility of LAY-OFFS at your employer? Do you know people who have been laid-off?
- Class tension in French society goes back to the FRENCH REVOLUTION and before, and is NOTHING NEW. Describe the nature of class relations in your country.
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Tear to shreds
- Run-up to
- Mug shot
- Bottomless pit
- Hard hit
- Round-table discussion
- Thrash out
- Hold hostage
- Nothing new