France's new president

Former Air France boss faces clash over 400,000-euro bonus as job cuts planned


The former boss of Air France-KLM may have to pay back a 400,000-euro bonus after Thursday’s shareholder meeting, which takes place as the company prepares to shed thousands of jobs and put a cap on salaries.


Shareholders will be asked on Thursday to rubber-stamp the bonus, which has already

been paid to Pierre-Henri Gourgeon in return for a commitment not to join one of the company’s competitors over the next three years.

But the government, which is the largest shareholder at 15.9 per cent, will vote against, Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg announced Wednesday, while others, notably employees who hold 9.7 per cent, are likely to refuse to rubber-stamp the deal.

Apart from the bonus, Gourgeon was paid 1.125 million-euro golden parachute when he was squeezed out in October 2011. 

Air France lost about 500 million euros in 2011.

It has set itself the target of balancing the books by the end of 2014 by saving two billion euros.

It is expected to try and win support of unions for as many as 5,000 voluntary redundancies, as well as a salary and jobs freeze.

Its shares fell 71 per cent in 2011 and have fallen a further 10 per cent so far this year.

“The payments and bonuses given to the former director general of Air France- KLM and endorsed by the previous government are not consistent with the rules on restraint and decency regarding salaries announced by the president of the republic,” Economy Minister Pierre Moscovici announced Tuesday.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

During his election campaign, President François Hollande promised to limit the difference between public-sector bosses and employees to 20-1 and is expected to pass a decree to that effect before within a fortnight.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault met unions and bosses on Tuesday to discuss the new government's industrial policy. 

Labour Minister Michel Sapin on Wednesday declared that unions were probably right in their estimate that 45,000 jobs are under threat across the country.


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