French airline Air Méditerranée is sacking 85 workers and wants French based pilots and cabin crew to be hired on cheaper contracts by its recently established Greek subsidiary Hermès Airlines.
Moving onto Greek contracts means a 30% pay cut. A flight attendant currently on Euros 1,200 a month would now get Euros 900. The chief steward would get Euros 3,600 instead of Euros 6000. But they will be doing the same job: crewing the same flights departing from France to various parts of the Mediterranean.
The CEO and main shareholder of the company Antoine Ferretti insists competition from Eastern Europe and wage levels in France have forced his hand. He points to big losses in 2010 and 2011, but he’s not talking about the profits made over the years from 1997 when the company was launched.
Denis Roumier of the pilots’ union SNPL points out that the company already pays the lowest salaries in the sector. Questions are instead being asked as to whether the real problem is not labour costs, but the cost of capital - the money that the CEO and other senior managers have pocketed, rather than investing it or putting some aside for rainy day like now.
The issue is making the news, as offshoring or ‘delocalisation’ are at the centre of the Presidential election debate. All the candidates are making visits to companies and factories under threat of closure, including Lejaby (lingerie), Pétroplus (refinery) Photowatt (solar power) and ArcelorMittal (steelmaker).
Right-wing incumbent Sarkozy has been trying to get the French to forget his broken promise to cut unemployment which has instead increased to over 10%. And he has hauled in his billionaire friends to make promises of rescue plans.
The socialists’ François Hollande, frontrunner to succeed Sarko, is promising to introduce laws that ban the closure of sites that are profitable and where delocalisation plans are found to be based on taking advantage of lower wages abroad.
The airline’s employees, meanwhile, aren’t waiting for the outcome of the election. With the company having already substituted 50% of the French personnel with Greek employees, they’ve not choice but to step up their game. The SNPNC-FO cabin crew union call a strike on Wednesday in protest.