Air France unions will meet to discuss the next steps they will take to continue their fight for bigger pay increases as the Air France-KLM group prepares for the arrival of new CEO Benjamin Smith by the end of September. 

A group of unions representing Air France pilots and cabin crew are set to meet Aug. 27 to discuss the action they will take to break an impasse on salaries—the catalyst for the major labor conflict and management crisis that has engulfed the Franco-Dutch group in recent months. Unions have previously warned that strikes could restart after the summer vacation period.  

Earlier this year unions were calling for 5% salary increases—more than management was prepared to offer—saying salaries in recent years had failed to keep up with inflation and a rise in living costs.

Air France-KLM group—which is also facing tough competition from Gulf carriers and rapidly growing LCCs—was hit by 15 Air France strike days between February and June and the shock departure of former group CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac in May.

The pay conflict remains unresolved as former Air Canada president, airlines and COO Benjamin Smith prepares to take the helm of the group, following a fraught three-month search for a successor to Janaillac.

Smith, who is due to take up his new position by Sept. 30, met French transport minister Elisabeth Borne Aug. 21 to discuss the broad issues the group is facing. The French state owns 14.3% of the group. Other major shareholders include Delta Air Lines and China Eastern Airlines which each hold 8.8%. 

The revelation that the group’s board had decided to increase the CEO’s fixed salary to reflect Smith’s international experience, his salary at Air Canada and higher salaries for comparable posts outside France has sparked outrage among unions already skeptical over the choice of the first non-French national to head the group. 

A document posted on the Air France-KLM website shows that Smith will earn €900,000 ($1.04 million) of fixed salary, as well as variable remuneration that could reach 122% of the fixed part if performance objectives are met and is limited to 150% if those objectives are exceeded.

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