By Vanni Gibertini
Lufthansa Pilots Union Ready to Strike Over Pay Negotiations
After a week of operational chaos for the Lufthansa Group due to a ground crew strike that on 27 July led to the cancelation of over 1,000 flights affecting over 130,000 passengers all around Europe, more trouble may be on the horizon for the German company.
A consultation among all the pilots associated with the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) Union on Sunday revealed that an overwhelming majority of members are in favor of industrial action to obtain “a modern and fair, internationally competitive remuneration structure” said the VC’s negotiator Marcel Groels in an email to BNN Bloomberg.
Walkouts have not been immediately planned, but they could start as early as next week while Lufthansa and all other European airlines are fighting labor shortages at the biggest airports in the Continent and holiday travel is in full swing as passenger numbers continue to rebound strongly after two years of low demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Endless security lines snarling outside airport terminals, piles of undelivered bags clogging arrival areas and mass cancelation to cope with lower-than-expected staffing rates in ground handling departments and at security checkpoints are just some of the problems plaguing airports in Europe and around the world as passenger demands recovered stronger than expected for the 2022 summer season.
Lufthansa has already cut more than 7,000 flights during this current season to cope with these difficult operational circumstances and could be bracing for more disruption as labor negotiations heat up. Pilot’s union VC is demanding a 5.5% pay raise this year for its members and an automatic inflation compensation thereafter, the Globe and Mail reports. Its requests also include a uniform pay structure including all the divisions of the Lufthansa Group, including also its budget carrier Eurowings and the recently created long-haul leisure carrier Eurowings Discover.
Salaries and wages are usually the biggest cost item for airlines and one of the most common strategies to keep it under control is to create separate divisions where younger crewmembers with lower salaries and benefits are hired to operate the flights for the group’s budget carriers. This could lead to colleagues working side by side performing a similar role with significantly different salary schemes and seniority privileges, which can be a significant source of internal tension.
Another airline of the Lufthansa Group, Swiss International Air Lines, has seen its pilots overwhelmingly reject a contract renewal proposal to a labor contract that expired in April, adding another labor front that will require the management’s attention during this already tumultuous period. “If management continues not to recognize the signs of the times and does not immediately offer adequate solutions, then the pilots must show the management even more clearly how dissatisfied they are,” the Swiss labor union Aeropers said on Sunday to the Globe and Mail.