The French may still be demanding liberté but there's less égalité and fraternité as unions resist management attempts to force the lower working conditions of Air France and Air Liberté on to their members at Air France Europe and TAT respectively.

Pilots and ground staff from Air France Europe, formerly Air Inter, went on strike in early April protesting against the imposition of Air France mainline's lower working conditions, which are being phased in between the start of the preliminary takeover phase on 1 April and the completion of the merger on 1 September.

Air France pilots' salaries are on average 20 per cent lower than those enjoyed at Air France Europe, while their productivity levels are some 15 per cent higher.

Air France mainline pilots may yet join the strike, though they called off late March's four-day action in protest at management's plan to reduce pilots' entry-level salaries.

Air France aims to hire 450 pilots over three years, on a starting salary of FFr220,000 (US$39,000). Air France argues this is a reasonable entry salary as new pilots would receive an annual FFr25,000 increase over the next 10 years, and would return to the original salary scale on becoming captain.

Air France pilots argue that the new salaries 'depreciate our worth - pilots have already given enough,' says Maurel.

Air France has already found a scapegoat for the less than smooth merger process. It sacked the head of its European operations, Michel Ennesser, in April for 'technical reasons', replacing him with Pascale d'Ezrjuire. Jean-Paul Maurel, secretary general of pilots union Spaf, claims Ennesser was sacked 'for badly managing the merger'.

Air France will watch with interest how British Airways handles similar protests at its TAT and Air Liberté subsidiaries, where pilots, cabin crew and mechanics staged a 48-hour strike in early April to protest the imposition of Air Liberté's lower working conditions on TAT employees following the two airlines' merger.

The difference in conditions is quite revealing, according to figures from Air Liberté. A TATF100 captain earns FFr67,750 per month for an average of 558 hours flying. This is is more than at Air Liberté, where an MD-83 captain's monthly earnings are FFr52,900 for 635 hours and a DC-10 captain earns FFr59,750 for 660 hours flying.


Source: Airline Business