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Hollande pleads for dialogue, as Air France conflict deepens

French President Francois Hollande attends a ceremony to honour the decorated challengers of the 43rd WorldSkills at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 13, 2015
French President Francois Hollande attends a ceremony to honour the decorated challengers of the 43rd WorldSkills at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 13, 2015 REUTERS/Etienne Laurent/Pool

French President François Hollande has called for dialogue with unions, hours after five Air France employees were handed over to prosecutors on charges of "gang-related violence".

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"There can be no progress without dialogue," Francois Hollande told workers on Tuesday, during a visit to the Saint-Nazaire shipyard in western France.

The French president, accompanied by his former Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, was inspecting the construction of the biggest ship liner in the world, but his excitement was dampened somewhat by nagging questions from trade unions gathered, about the government's handling of the Air France case.

"It is not always easy to find a solution that pleases everyone," Hollande said by way of reply. "They (Air France and workers' unions) need to talk to each other. They need partners," he said.

Hollande had a hard job finding any partners on his tour, as two union representatives refused to shake his hand, in protest at the government's refusal to denounce the "violence" of Air France company bosses.

Ironically, the shipliner he was inspecting is called "Harmony of the Seas." And Hollande, lapping on to its semantic nature, urged: "We need harmony in our country, we need to be able to talk to one another and understand one another."

"Harmony" is meant to set sail at the end of next year. Meanwhile, five detained Air France employees, will also be going on a journey, although not as exotic.

On Tuesday, they were handed over to French prosecutors following last week's violent outburst outside their company headquarters. On December 2 they will go before a criminal court on charges of gang-related violence.

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