‘Rogues’ await verdicts in Air France shirt-ripping scandal

Air France workers involved in the incident in October 15 will find out on Wednesday whether they are to be fined or even handed prison sentences as prosecutors have demanded.

Images of the incident in France hit screens around the world, showing bare-chested human resources chief Xavier Broseta trying to scale a fence after being chased out of a meeting about restructuring proposals at the troubled airline.

Another executive, Pierre Plissonnier, also had his shirt and jacket ripped in the incident on October 5th, 2015, which arose from a dispute over the aviation giant’s plans to cut 2,900 jobs.

After crashing through the fence outside Air France headquarters on the outskirts of Paris, dozens of workers had broken into the conference room where management was unveiling the restructuring plan to the firm’s works committee.

Some company guards were also injured in the melee.

The 15 workers went on trial in September but and the judgements are due on Wednesday.

Five of the defendants were charged with “organised violence”, punishable by up to three years in prison and a €45,000 ($51,000) fine if convicted. Another ten faced lesser charges in the two-day trial.

Prosecutors are calling for fines of €1,000 and suspended prison sentences of four months however unions are demanding the workers are found not guilty.

At the time French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the men, whom he branded “rogues”, should be dealt stiff sentences.


The bigger picture

The defendants’ lawyer, Lilia Mhissen, said during the trial she hoped the her clients would “not be judged on the basis of video clips that last a fraction of a second” but on the bigger picture.

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At least two of them “clearly acted to protect Mr Broseta and Mr Plissonnier”, she said.

“If they had retrieved all of the video images… the story would have been different.”

Air France, which employs around 55,000 people, has scrapped the restructuring plan but still faces tensions with pilots and flight crews that staged strikes in late July.

Air France-KLM returned to profit last year after seven years of losses, but faces stiff competition from Asian and Gulf airlines as well as new low-cost long-haul alternatives.

The airline also faces a downturn in bookings, notably by Japanese, Chinese and American customers, because of the string of jihadist attacks that have hit France over the past 21 months.

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