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Air France-KLM, one of the world’s biggest airline groups, is in deep trouble and facing significant turbulent times.
Shares in Air France-KLM crashed as much as 14.5% on Monday after the group’s CEO quit over a pay dispute and the French government said it would not intervene to help. France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, on Sunday said that the labour dispute “threatens the survival of Air France.”
He also said that the French government, which owns 14.3% of the Air France-KLM holding company, would not provide the carrier with a bailout, according to BFMTV. In a statement on Friday, CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac said he would quit in mid-May after tens of thousands of French staff and pilots voted against a multi-year pay offer.
An analysis by Fortune Magazine argues that this isn’t merely a case of workers against management. The Air France strikes must be seen in the wider context of a growing pushback against President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to “modernize” the French labor market.
Macron’s pro-business ethos and bullish style have pitted him against France’s powerful labor unions, who want to retain the country’s strong workers’ rights. The president has also taken on France’s railway unions by trying to abolish jobs-for-life and reform pensions at state rail firm SNCF, again leading to strikes. Even French garbage collectors have been striking.
In the case of Air France, Macron’s government has been weighing in against the unions, with economic minister Bruno Le Maire warning that the carrier could “disappear” as a result of the industrial action. The government owns 1.43% of Air France-KLM, but says it won’t bail it out although each strike day (today’s is the 14th) costs the airline at least €25 million ($29.8 million.)