Air France is crucifying itself with strikes

Jean Marc Jeunillac the CEO of Air France resigned as he said he would, Friday.

He said he would go if the unions voted down a 7% pay rise spread over three years and based on the company making a profit of €200m a year, well within its capabilities.

Instead the unions – not by far a majority of the work force – representing just 30% of staff, voted against.

In effective about one fifth of Air France staff are making it impossible for the other four fifths to do their jobs and keep the company going.

While by no means a majority, the staff are ground and cabin crew in key areas, and there are enough of them to bring the whole airline to a stop.

More strikes will happen over the key bank holiday weekend in France. Let me explain – France has May Day on the day, May 1st, it has Victory in Europe day on May 8th – so basically the French take the entire week off – and another at Ascension the week after. A strike on the 7th and 8th will maximise impact at the worst time, so that’s what they’re going to do.

The endless strikes, the €350m in losses to the airline are testing the patience of even the French, whose penchant for labour disputes and go-slows is legendary. I loved living and working there for many years, and you sort of just get used to it.

This time it seems different. Unions seem to be pushing too far, too hard and too often. They seem greedy and uncooperative. Ruining people’s holidays grates even with the French.But for the airline? It’s doing untold damage, the losses make it harder for them to offer better deals, the unions want too much for nothing in return, and its public image is deeply tarnished.

I refuse to fly via Paris on Air France because of their unreliability. You cannot trust you’ll get where you’re going, and if you can’t do that why would you ever fly with them?

The airline is stuck between the toughest employment laws in Europe and the most intransigence shown by any striking workforce outside of Alitalia – and look where that’s ended up.

You’re going to see brands like Joon grow far more quickly as its separate contracts isolate it from its parent airline. Air France May have little choice but to shrink itself to save itself, and trust in alternate brands with new workers and contracts outside of the communist era unions.