France’s President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that scenes from violent protests by workers at the headquarters of country’s troubled flag carrier Air France were “unacceptable.”
Hundreds of the airline’s workers stormed the board meeting at Charles De Gaulle Airport on Monday following the announcement of the plans to cut 2,900 jobs.
The airline’s director at Orly airport Pierre Plissonnier and human resources executive Xavier Broseta had to climb over a fence to escape from their angry co-workers.
The images of two executives with their shirts ripped and torn off as they were trying to jump from the airport’s fence have appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the world.
Following the violence, Hollande evaluated the Monday’s chaos at the inauguration of a naval school in the northern city of Le Havre on Tuesday.
“Social dialogue matters, and when it’s interrupted by violence and disputes take on an unacceptable form, it can have consequences for the image and attractiveness [of the country],” the French President said in his speech.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls during his visit to Air France's headquarters to express his concern over the violence on Tuesday said that "this image hurts our country," adding that "all of France is in shock," and blaming "thugs" for the violence.
Seven people were also injured in the mob attack, including a security guard who is receiving medical treatment.
The country’s prosecutors announced that they have launched a criminal investigation into the violance to find those responsible for it.
Earlier France's transport minister, Alain Vidalies, told parliament that “the only possible response is to prosecute because these incidents were totally beyond the scope of union action.”
He also mentioned photos of executives with their shirts torn off which have featured on the front pages of newspapers worldwide, describing them as a caricature of France and unhelpful for the airline’s future.
“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.”
The airline is struggling to compete with its global rivals - Germany’s Lufthansa, British Airways and Spain’s Iberia.
The company announced on Monday that it has to cut the jobs of 300 pilots, 900 air hostesses and stewards and 1,700 ground staff.
Between 2012 and 2014, the company cut 5,500 jobs as a result of stiff competition with low cost companies in Europe.
On Tuesday two union sources claimed that the airline is planning a further 5,000 job cuts after 2017.
Air France denied the figures, saying that it had "no plan concerning the evolution of staff in 2018, 2019 and beyond."