French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has urged the country’s flagship carrier Air France to become engaged in real and serious efforts for reform or else face the prospect of vanishing from the highly competitive market.
“If Air France does not make efforts to become more competitive, allowing this flagship to be at the same level at Lufthansa and other airline companies, Air France will disappear,” Le Maire said Sunday amid an escalating pay dispute between Air France and workers union which has grounded many flights across the country.
Le Maire said that unions’ demands for an increase of five percent in wages in 2018 was not fair, but he insisted that the French government, which owns 14 percent of Air France’s stakes, would never come to the rescue of the company if it collapses over financing problems.
“We’re minority shareholders … those that think that whatever happens the state will come to Air France’s rescue and soak up Air France’s losses are mistaken,” said the French minister.
The pay dispute in Air France deepened Friday after staff rejected a deal to have their wages increased for seven percent in four years. That prompted Air France-KLM CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac to resign although he would stay on until May 15 when the company’s board is due to on its plan to introduce a new management.
Pilots, ground staff and other workers in Air France have announced they would resume strikes on May 7 and May 8. The carrier deplored the planned action and said the company was open to negotiate a solution to the stand-off.
“Air France deplores the decision to go ahead with the strikes as we enter a period that will not enable negotiations to continue in order to put an end to it,” said a statement from Air France –KLM’s French brand.
Some 15 percent of Air France flights are cancelled on each day of the strike while the company has already reported some 300 million euros ($359 million) worth of losses as a result of the stoppages.
The pay strike in the airline comes amid a wider series of walkouts by workers of the transportation network in France. Rail workers have repeatedly staged stoppages to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s planned overhaul of the state-run train operator SNCF.