Air France has reached a pay deal with unions, paving the way for the Air France-KLM group to move on from a months-long labor conflict and focus on its long-term strategy.

The deal includes a general pay increase of 2%, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018, and a general pay increase of 2% on Jan. 1, 2019 and was signed by the CFDT, CFE-CGC/UNAC, FO/SNPNC, SPAF and UNSAAérien Air France ground staff and cabin crew unions. 

The list of signatories does not include the SNPL, Air France’s main pilots’ union, but Air France said the unions that had signed represented 76.4% of the employees who voted in the last union elections. “This agreement is therefore considered valid and will be implemented,” it said. 

A group of Air France unions, including the SNPL, had expressed doubts about the proposal earlier this month, calling on Oct. 9 for the company to confirm in writing that the second part of the total 4% increase would not prejudice obligatory negotiations on 2019 salaries. 

The agreement comes less than a month after Benjamin Smith, the group’s new CEO, also took over as temporary CEO at Air France, kicking off discussions with labor representatives in a bid to resolve the long-drawn out pay conflict.

Air France unions had previously been calling for a 5.1% general pay rise to make up for stagnating salaries between 2012 and 2018 and the impasse led to 15 strike days and a €335 million ($384 million) financial hit for the group earlier this year as well as the resignation of former Air France-KLM CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac in May.

Smith, who took over as group CEO Sept. 17, gained a reputation for being a successful negotiator with unions at Air Canada, where he was previously COO. 

“I would like to thank everyone involved at Air France for the quality of our discussions over the past few weeks, and for the trust that has prevailed throughout,” Smith said. “This way of working between all parties provides Air France and the Air France-KLM group with a new perspective going forward, and it is my hope that it will ensure the future success of our airlines.”

The airline said the next round of annual salary negotiations would begin with all representative unions in October 2019 with discussions based on the global economic environment, the present situation of the Air France-KLM group, as well as the company’s economic performance.

Helen Massy-Beresford, helen.massy-beresford@aviationweek.co.uk