PARIS - Six Air France employees were arrested Monday for their role in a violent protest that forced an executive for the struggling airline to flee an angry mob after his shirt was ripped off.
According to police sources, the men were arrested on the basis of witness testimony and video recordings of the incident a week earlier.
Four of the suspects were arrested "without incident" early Monday at their homes outside Paris, and a fifth shortly after, they said.
The sixth was taken into custody later after his name came up in the course of the investigation.
The first five men arrested are mainly warehouse workers in the Air France Cargo division or Air France Industries. A police source said some of the men are union representatives.
Unions called a rally in support of the arrested men at Air France's headquarters near Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.
The men were apprehended as "if they were members of a notorious gang or drug or gun smugglers," Christophe Malloggi, of the FO union at the airline, told AFPTV.
Several hundred employees disrupted a meeting on October 5 at Air France's headquarters while executives were detailing plans to lay off 2,900 workers as part of cost-cutting measures.
Human resources director Xavier Broseta had his shirt ripped off and had to be helped over a fence by security guards.
Another executive, Pierre Plissonnier, also had his shirt and jacket ripped in the chaos.
Photographs of a bare-chested Broseta were splashed across the front pages and websites of newspapers across the world, including the Financial Times and New York Times.
In total, seven people were injured, including a security guard who was knocked unconscious and required hospital treatment.
At least 10 legal complaints have been lodged against the protesters - six from security guards and company executives for violence, and one from Air France for hindering the meeting and for damages.
An internal investigation at the airline, which is 17.6 percent-owned by the state, has also identified around 10 employees believed to have been involved in the violence, another source said.
The first notices of disciplinary action were also expected to be sent out on Monday to employees who participated in the violence, a source confirmed to AFP.
Air France management has said disciplinary action could include dismissal.
The airline last week launched a social media campaign with a clip of Broseta saying that "what you saw on Monday is not the real face of Air France." France's national flag carrier is struggling to compete in the face of intense competition from global rivals.
Since the clashes at the meeting, it has resumed negotiations with its pilots about introducing more flexible working practises. It said on Friday that meetings had gone well, according to a union source.
Air France has tried to persuade the pilots, who earn an average of 150,000 to 175,000 euros (S$209,326.50 to S$237,236.70) a year at senior levels, to fly 100 more hours a year for the same salary.
A two-week strike by the pilots in September 2014 cost the airline 416 million euros in turnover.