FRENCH aviation union Syndicat National du Personnel Navigant Commercial (SNPNC-FO) cabin crew members (hostesses and stewards) are on strike from Wednesday July 13 to Sunday July 17.
These workers are employed by Transavia, the low-cost subsidiary of Air France.
‘On July 13, 130 strikers are expected on 136 flights,’ said Nicolas Bessalam, secretary of the Force Ouvriere (FO) trade union section on July 11.
This call echoes the feelings among the employees (1,477 cabin crew including 700 holders,) who have received only 45 euros of salary increase since the creation of Transavia in 2007.
This positions them on the guaranteed minimum wage (SMG) at the first four levels of the minimum wage grid, while enduring, exhausting working conditions.
Stop the exhausting rhythm of shift rotations
In the context of negotiations opened since April, the management only plans to adjust the first levels of the grid. It only plans to do this by January 2023, when the PGE (loan guaranteed by the State) will have been reimbursed.
The FO section is asking for an immediate adjustment, an increase in wages and the improvement of working conditions – starting with the cessation of the frantic pace of shift rotations that is ‘as exhausting for the health of employees as it is dangerous for the safety of flights,’ said Nicolas Bessalam.
He cited an ordinary working day for a Cabin Crew Member: a flight from Nantes to Marseille, then to Beirut, followed by a return to Marseille before a flight back to Nantes … Arrival sometimes around 4am!
Meanwhile, President Emanuel Macron’s government has suffered its first defeat in parliament after his party’s election setback,
The National Assembly rejected a proposal on Tuesday night to give the government powers to demand travellers show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test when entering France.
The defeat by 219 votes to 195 saw all the major opposition parties – the far-right National Rally (RN), the left LFI, and rightwing Republicans (LR) – unite against the minority government.
Leading Republicans MP Olivier Marleix told Sud Radio Wednesday morning: ‘The circumstances oblige the government to listen to opposition parties, which at the moment it has a few difficulties in doing.’
The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, condemned the obstruction. Allies sought to stress how the so-called ‘extremes’, the far-right and the left, had teamed up together.
MP Maud Bregeon from Macron’s Republic-on-the- Move, wrote on Twitter alongside a video: ‘Clear collusion between the extremes, each one applauding the other.’
Fellow ruling party MP Remy Rebeyrotte slammed ‘an atmosphere like a football match’ during the debate where speakers were shouted down.
The most senior MP in the leftwing LFI party, Mathilde Panot, referred to ruling party MPs as ‘Playmobils’, an insult comparing them to inanimate toys.
Despite the setback on the border controls, a wider bill to tackle the seventh wave of Covid-19 infections passed the assembly with 221 votes in favour and 187 against.
After being re-elected to a second term in April, Macron saw his ability to push through domestic reforms severely curtailed by the setback in June’s parliamentary election.
Analysts say he will need to rely on the right-wing Republicans party whose 62 MPs will be crucial for passing legislation and the fascists of the National Rally.
- Earlier this month, the FO warned of the ‘infernal pace of work and wages and unsustainable understaffing’.
The union federation said: ‘Faced with the sudden and unanticipated recovery in passenger air traffic, which could approach the pre-crisis level this summer, strikes and calls for action are increasing. In the air as in airports, staff testify to very degraded working and salary conditions.
‘Blame it on the policy of job and cost cuts which employers have made the first lever to get through the pandemic, although they have received massive public aid.
‘As the end of the crisis becomes clearer, they persist in this logic on the basis of running out of resources, the increased cost of fuel, and the risk of resurgence of the pandemic.
‘The chaos facing the airline industry will only get worse this summer. Don’t blame its workers!
‘On June 20, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF, of which FO is a member) challenged airline passengers in an open letter. It called for patience in the face of congestion at airports, longer check-in times, lost luggage, flight delays and cancellations, caused by severe staff shortages.
‘Brutal and unanticipated, the resumption of passenger traffic puts staff in an untenable position. The staff have suffered unprecedented cuts in the workforce since 2020, accompanied by a drop in salary because reducing the payroll was the first lever used by employers to get through the pandemic.
‘The problem is that the workforce was already pared down, the first victims of the liberalisation of the European sky since the mid-1990s. The cost has been the deterioration in the quality of jobs.
‘Among all the days of action that are multiplying, the strike of Ryanair hostesses and stewards, on June 25-26 in five European countries (including France), did not come as a surprise.
Deterioration of working conditions in the air and on the ground
‘The return of travellers also undermines working conditions in airports, ground handling services and air security. On July 1, an interprofessional strike was announced among the staff of the companies at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport platform.
‘Their common demand? Emergency hiring of more staff and salary increases. In total, on the Roissy and Orly sites, there was a shortage of 4,000 professionals at the end of April between the manager Aéroports de Paris (ADP) and its subcontractors.
‘ADP was still looking for these staff in mid-June, having recruited 330 out of the 600 it wanted to hire, after having imposed in 2021 1,150 redundancies out of 6,400 (including 700 not replaced) and a pay cut for employees who remained.
‘Le Monde, revealed in mid June, that 500 security guards were still lacking at the two sites for the security checkpoints, where luggage and passengers go through metal detectors. And the situation is not better in the region.
‘At Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport, Aviapartner agents (450 employees), who manage checked baggage, ground logistics and aircraft cleaning, were on their fifth day of strike in three weeks, on 23 June, faced with the explosion in working time and management’s refusal to reopen the NAO 2022 before October.
‘Working weeks of 45-50 hours are enough! Employees can no longer take shifts of ten hours worked in one day, for lack of recruitment. On a staggered schedule, it’s exhausting,’ said Raoul Soler, DS FO, majority.
The FO statement continued: ‘Two figures are enough to understand this outbreak of industrial actions.
‘While European traffic is growing at 86% of the 2019 level, and could reach 95% in August according to Europol, the French workforce in the branch has shrunk “by 10% to 15%” since 2019,’ estimates Michaël Dellis, federal secretary in charge of transport flights to FEETS-FO.
‘In 2020 alone, the workforce fell by 6%, reduced to 57,063 full-time equivalent jobs ,mainly affecting the ground staff , according to the branch report.
‘And austerity, for them, extends to branch wage negotiations. First organisation, FO refused to sign the NAO 2021 and 2022 because it only offered a catch-up of the first pay spine points, lower than the minimum wage.
‘As a result, with the successive increases in the minimum wage, the first seven pay spine points are found at the minimum wage!
At Air France, payroll is reduced by 29%
‘The sector has already benefitted from public aid. Air France, was saved by state loans of 7 billion euros. 25% of the payroll was maintained by these devices in 2020.
‘Before the carrier put employees to work, it carried out 7,500 redundancies and reduced vacation days. In total, between all these measures, the payroll will have been reduced by 29% between 2019 and 2021.
‘And the trend is to continue the “transformation” of Air France, initiated during the crisis.
‘During the central CSE in April, the elected FO (first organisation) denounced the project to relocate hundreds of IT jobs, the development of subcontracting on the tarmac.
‘Out of every four track agents in charge of a medium-haul plane, there is only one Air France employee,’ left, denounced Christophe Malloggi, general secretary of FO-Air France.
‘Debt, dried up cash, increased cost of fuel, risk of epidemic returning … employers do not lack arguments to justify the continuation of the austerity regime in terms of hiring or wages. For FO, on the contrary, we must reconnect with the creation of quality jobs and raise wages.’