UPDATE 1-Air France unions press pay demands ahead of works council


PARIS, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Air France-KLM’s French unions reiterated demands for a 5.1 percent pay increase on Monday without calling any immediate resumption of strike action, as the airline group awaits the arrival of a new chief executive.

A cross-union grouping behind earlier strikes that led to the May resignation of the last CEO, Jean-Marc Janaillac, vowed after a meeting on Monday to maintain its core demand on pay. But it stopped short of calling for renewed action.

A joint declaration will be delivered to management at the next scheduled works council meeting on Thursday, the unions said, without referring to industrial action. “We remain mobilised to defend our demands,” they said.

Air France-KLM’s new CEO, Air Canada second-in-command Ben Smith, is expected to begin his new job next month.

Smith, who becomes the first foreign boss in Air France’s 85-year history, steps into a minefield of labour tensions that led to weeks of strikes earlier this year, grounding hundreds of flights and wiping 335 million euros ($383 million) off first-half earnings.

Squeezed between long-haul competition from Gulf carriers like Emirates and a proliferation of low-cost regional rivals, Air France-KLM has struggled to overhaul costs and services the way British Airways parent IAG or Lufthansa have done.

An Air France-KLM spokesman declined to comment on discussions with unions. ($1 = 0.8744 euros) (Reporting by Laurence Frost and Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by Brian Love)