Trade union activists protesting the nearly 3,000 proposed layoffs at Air France attacked headquarters during a rally on Monday, with two managers tearing shirts off their bodies, removing fences and fleeing under police protection.
The Associated Press photographer broke down a gate and saw hundreds of activists rushing through the building. Shortly afterwards two top managers escaped, with one stripped barefoot and the other with his shirt and suit jacket.
Road access to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris was blocked for some time, and some flights were delayed.
Despite Monday’s melee being unusually violent, labor relations in France are generally experimental, with unions sometimes taking managers hostage or “boss-napping” as a point of contention.
Air France condemned the violence and said it would proceed with its restructuring plans anyway after failing to reach an agreement with the pilots.
Alexandre de Juniak, CEO of Air France-KLM, said the company was being squeezed by Gulf airlines for its low-cost airlines and long-haul flights in Europe. Monday’s meeting is intended to describe the cuts.
Airline executives told reporters Monday that the plan would lay off 2,900 employees, including five routes and 35 weekly long-haul flights, primarily in Asia and the Middle East.
Yves Borde, an activist representing freight workers, was also present at Monday’s demonstration.
Gulf companies, which receive lower fuel prices and government subsidies, compete with us. This is impossible, we are not on an equal footing, ”he said.
Air France said it was going to report a severe attack.
French Transport Secretary Alain Vitalis condemned the violence, saying in a tweet that “this is unacceptable and should be punished.”
Xavier Procetta, deputy director of human resources, one of the executives fired by protesters, later told reporters he had received messages of sympathy from colleagues throughout the day, including union leaders.
After wearing a new jacket and tie, we fight every day for Air France that he has a standard France. “Violence and intimidation have no place in it.”