PARIS (Reuters) - Air France (AIRF.PA) is in a fragile financial condition but its renationalization is not on the agenda, Transport Minister Alain Vidalies said on Tuesday, a day after violence by employees interrupted a meeting about drastic cost cuts.
Speaking after images of a human resources manager with his shirt ripped off were shown around the world’s media, he also said the day’s events amounted to a “caricature” of France that was unhelpful to the airline’s future.
“This image, we can put it right by a firm and unanimous condemnation of what happened. I have said it. The Prime Minister (Manuel Valls) said it yesterday,” he said on RTL Radio.
“I think the best French response would be to respond to those abroad who see a caricature, that these events are not France, and that we can get back on track by talking,” he said.
A security guard was left unconscious for several hours on Monday as angry employees broke up a works council meeting.
The meeting had been called to outline an accelerated plan for 2,900 job cuts and a 10 percent reduction in long-haul flights after failure to secure pilot agreement on a less drastic set of cutbacks.
Air France has launched a legal complaint over the incident, which has been condemned by management, unions, and government officials alike. Vidalies said there should be penalties for those involved.
Vidalies defended the management’s plans for the airline, saying: “On the stock market front, its market value has shrunk to 2 billion (euros) from 7 billion, so it’s a company that is fragile.”
Asked whether the government should intervene more directly in the dispute given its 17 percent stake in the business, Vidalies said nationalization was not on the cards.
“That (stake) is the result of history.... The state is a shareholder (but) we are not in a situation today where the solution will be nationalization of Air France. If it is that behind your question, then the answer is no.”
Reporting by Andrew Callus and Marine Le Pennetier; editing by Adrian Croft