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Strike France Air France-KLM Industrial action

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Air France employees to appeal sentences for 'shirt ripping' protest

French CGT union's members gather outside the court of Bobigny, northern Paris on May 27, 2016 during the trial of 15 French CGT union's members judged for the episode of the “torn shirt”, in full showdown initiated by the union with the government. BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

Twelve employees and former employees of Air France, the French national airline, will begin an appeal Monday against sentences imposed on them at the end of November 2016 for violence that broke out during protests against restructuring plans at the airline.

Three former Air France employees were found guilty of ripping company executives' shirts during a dispute over lay-offs  in a case that highlighted the country's sometimes violent labour relations.

Appearing in court in northeast Paris, three defendants were given suspended prison sentences of 3-4 months over the attack in October 2015 that left one executive naked to the waist and another with his shirt and jacket in tatters.

Two others who faced the same charges of "organised violence" were acquitted.

Images of furious activists chasing down the executives at the airline's headquarters on the edge of Paris made headlines around the world when the confrontation took place.

The protests were led by the hard-left CGT, France's largest union, over the airline's plans to cut 2,900 jobs.

This new trial, to be held before the Paris Court of Appeal on five afternoons until March 20, opens in a different context: the company has substantially adjusted its financial situation, returning to profits.

Industrial action

It also takes place against a backdrop of industrial unrest with unions representing pilots, cabin crew and ground staff for Air France due to strike on 23rd of March.

Ten unions have backed the strike call against a one-percent pay deal signed by a minority of unions and unilaterally imposed by management.

The pay rise of one percent - 0.6 percent to be paid on 1 April and 0.4 percent on 1 October - is inadequate to make up for losses due to inflation since the last company-wide pay rise in 2011, the unions that have issued the strike call claim.

The strike will come a week after the publication of Air France-KLM's results for 2017, which are expected to show a substantial improvement over previous years.

But the company says the pay rise is "realistic" because it is less profitable than its rivals and faces stiff competition, especially from low-coast operators.