Police arrest Air France staff after Oct. 5 scuffles

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 12, 2015 5:54 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - Police arrested several Air France workers at their homes early on Monday as investigators tracked down protesters who hounded executives from a meeting about mass job cuts last week and tore the clothes of two fleeing managers.

The arrests came a week after the world's media broadcast footage of an Air France human resources manager, his shirt ripped off, but tie still around his neck, scaling a fence to escape angry workers. A second manager had his shirt ripped down the back and a security guard was left unconscious for several hours after the melee.

Police and judicial sources said five Air France staff, all members of the CGT labor union, were arrested at their homes in the Paris region and would be held in custody in the capital.

A sixth person was placed in custody later in the day, the CGT union said in a statement in which it accused Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who condemned the violence, of helping the airline management undermine union activism.

The incident took place on Oct. 5 at Air France's offices in the Charles de Gaulle airport zone north of Paris, where human resources head Xavier Broseta and long-haul service executive Pierre Plissonnier were attending a works council meeting.

The managers and Air France Chief Executive Frederic Gagey had been outlining a cost-cutting plan involving 2,900 layoffs when protesters stormed the room. The proposal is described by the company as "Plan B" after it failed to persuade its pilots to accept a less radical one earlier this year.

At least four of those arrested were from the airline's cargo division, the police and judicial sources said. They were identified from video footage of the noisy protest.

Air France declined to comment on the latest developments. The airline's management hopes to renew contact this week with a view to resuming discussions on the carrier's future.

"Air France has no comment to make on a judicial enquiry," a spokeswoman said.

According to Le Parisien newspaper, Air France management is ready to consider another form of restructuring along the lines of one agreed with pilots at its Dutch arm KLM.

That deal included a freeze on general pay rises, a gradual increase in the retirement age, productivity measures and profit sharing. In return, Air France could scale back the number of routes it closes and long-haul aircraft it withdraws.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Chine Labbe; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Richard Balmforth)