France condemns shirt-ripping attack on airline execs

When protests go bad: Air France execs flee protesters
When protests go bad: Air France execs flee protesters

France has been stunned by a violent attack on airline executives by employees protesting against job cuts.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday condemned the protesters for their "criminal" behavior. During the attack Monday, shirts were ripped off two Air France executives.

"Air France is in shock and when Air France is in shock, all France is in shock," Valls said at the airline's headquarters near Paris. "This violence is horrifying, and we will take severe sanctions against those who have been involved in such acts."

Xavier Broseta, executive VP of human resources, and Pierre Plissonnier, an Air France director for human resources, both fled the protestors with the help of security staff. Alexandre de Juniac, the CEO of Air France-KLM (AFLYY), was also targeted in the attack.

Images of the executives climbing fences to escape the attacks went viral after a meeting at the airline's headquarters, during which the company revealed plans to cut nearly 3,000 jobs.

The attack had damaged France's reputation around the world, Valls said. "When one is attacking men, it is not professional misconduct, it's criminal," he added.

Prosecutors have begun an investigation into the incident after two Air France employees filed a complaint, a spokesperson for the local prosecutor's office told CNN.

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Xavier Broseta flees protestors after having his shirt ripped off.

The Air France meeting, which attracted around 200 protesters, was called after pay negotiations with pilots stalled September 30.

The deadlock forced Air France-KLM to impose cost savings including the cutting of 1,700 ground staff, 900 flight attendants and 300 cockpit crew. About 10% of long haul flights would be cut back, and five destinations removed from the schedule as part of the plans.

Valls, speaking at Air France-KLM headquarters near Charles de Gaulle airport, said pilots "must assume their responsibilities with clarity."

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Pierre Plissonnier leaves the meeting with security staff after being attacked.

In July, CEO de Juniac had warned the airline would face severe cost cutting measures to stem losses dating back to 2011. Without a deal, "severe measures" would have to be introduced in October, he had warned.

KLM management was able to reach an agreement with its staff in September.

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