From the Trenches: Shirtless Air France Execs Flee Workers

“From the Trenches” is a battle cry. In a globalized world that criminalizes the rebellious in spirit, it’s easy to forget that change-minded activists and organizers are tallying up tiny victories against sociocultural and economic oppression on the regular. The column will serve as a weekly reminder that we not only can win, but we do, often. So hasta la victoria siempre and all that.

Ah, there’s no sight more heartwarming than a bigwig executive clambering over a fence to escape from a horde of furious employees, his freshly pressed suit (and dignity) in tatters. Thanks to a group of striking Air France workers, this week got off to an excellent start.

On Monday, hundreds of disgruntled launched a union-backed strike outside of the Air France offices, where company executives planned to discuss 2,900 job cuts. The bosses were “almost lynched” when roughly 100 workers followed them into the building and proceeded to tear the shirts from the backs of management.

The Guardian reports of the confrontation between the workers and the bosses:

Photographs showed one ashen-faced director being led through a baying crowd, his clothes torn to shreds. In another picture, the deputy head of human resources, Xavier Broseta, left bare-chested after workers ripped off his shirt and jacket, is photographed being pushed to safety over a fence.

Tensions between management and workers at France’s loss-making flagship carrier had been building over the weekend in the run up to a meeting aimed at finalising a controversial “restructuring plan” involving 2,900 redundancies between now and 2017. The proposed job losses involve 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots.

The planned cuts are the only the latest example of austerity measures from the corporation. Air France air traffic controllers were joined by their counterparts at easyJet, RyanAir and thousands of other workers throughout France in a strike and protests against an attempt to raise the retirement age from 57 to 59 last April.

And though the company has filed a criminal complaint against the workers, they likely weren’t too surprised by their employees tactics in a country where the financial crisis has resulted in workers using controversial forms of direct action to “get the goods“:

It is not the first time French workers have taken matters into their own hands … Olivier Labarre, director of BTI, a human resources consultancy, told Libération newspaper in 2009: “This happens elsewhere, but to my knowledge, taking the boss hostage is typically French. It’s the nature of the social dialogue in our country.”


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