Police arrest Air France staff after attack on executives

Arrested employees all members of CGT labour union

PARIS (Reuters) — Police arrested several Air France workers at their homes early on Monday as investigators tracked down protesters who hounded executives from a meeting about mass job cuts last week and tore the clothes of two fleeing managers.

The arrests came a week after the world's media broadcast footage of a Air France human resources manager, his shirt ripped off but tie still around his neck, scaled a fence to escape the angry workers. A second manager had his shirt ripped down the back.

Police and judicial sources said five Air France staff, all members of the hardline CGT labour union, were arrested at their homes in the Paris region and would be placed in custody in the capital.

The incident took place on Oct. 5 at Air France's offices in the Charles de Gaulle airport zone north of Paris, where human resources head Xavier Broseta and long-haul service executive Pierre Plissonnier were attending a works council meeting.

The managers and Air France Chief Executive Frederic Gagey had been outlining a cost-cutting plan involving 2,900 layoffs when protesters stormed the room. The proposal is described by the company as "Plan B" after it failed to persuade its pilots to accept a less radical one earlier this year.

At least four of those arrested were from the airline's cargo division, the police and judicial sources said. They were identified from video footage of the noisy protest.

Air France declined to comment on the latest developments. The airline's management hopes to renew contact this week with a view to resuming discussions on the carrier's future.

"Air France has no comment to make on a judicial enquiry," a spokeswoman for the company told Reuters.

According to French newspaper Le Parisien, Air France management is ready to consider another form of restructuring along the lines of one agreed with pilots at its Dutch arm KLM.

That deal included a freeze on general pay rises, a gradual increase in the retirement age, productivity measures and profit sharing. In return, Air France could scale back the number of routes it closes and long-haul aircraft it withdraws.

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