Arbitrator for Lufthansa on the approach

Europe’s largest airline is struggling to survive. The struggle with the workforce for savings contributions is tough. Elsewhere, however, progress is in sight.

Growing unrest among the workforce: Lufthansa ground staff and flight attendants demonstrate at their home base in Frankfurt in June.

Dhe Deutsche Lufthansa is fighting for survival. So that at least the core business of the group has a future, the management is negotiating with the employees about possible savings contributions. Because despite a state capital injection with a total volume of around 9 billion euros, the company is reliant on the waiver of its employees.

Negotiations with the unions are tough and the time pressure is great. Positive news is now coming from another source of conflict: As the FAZ learned from the group environment, there will be an arbitration ruling in the coming week in the collective bargaining conflict with the UFO cabin union. If this is accepted by both sides, Lufthansa would end a permanent construction site. According to the information, the two arbitrators – the former SPD leader and Prime Minister of Brandenburg Matthias Platzeck and the former head of the employment agency Frank-Jürgen Weise – will present a compromise in the complicated dispute over remuneration and working time rules for flight attendants. Although the arbitration does not affect the pilots or the ground crew, it should nevertheless have a signaling effect.

Because Lufthansa and UFO were cross for a long time. It was only at the last moment that both sides agreed on the arbitration at the end of January, thus averting major strikes and disruptions for passengers. Several attempts to reach an agreement had previously failed, and the atmosphere for discussion was considered poisoned, not least because of personal quarrels among the negotiators.

Lufthansa wants to cut 22,000 jobs

In June, Lufthansa agreed the first crisis collective agreement with UFO, of all things, which essentially includes a savings contribution from the cabin crew, but in return the employer waives dismissals. With the sister unions Verdi and Cockpit there has so far been no result. On Wednesday Lufthansa said that the talks were still ongoing and were constructive. Verdi, on the other hand, described the mood as tense. Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr recently said in view of the as yet unsuccessful talks that dismissal protection for pilots and ground staff was “no longer realistic”. Lufthansa wants to cut 22,000 jobs because of the Corona crisis, half of them in Germany.

Recently, however, the UFO austerity package also seemed to falter again. The union leadership lacked statements on the framework conditions for the austerity phase – including the future increase in short-time allowance as well as severance payments, early retirement incentives and part-time offers in order to reduce the surplus of jobs in the corona crisis without layoffs.

The UFO had set Lufthansa a deadline of Tuesday, 5 p.m. to deliver the requested information. As the union announced on Tuesday evening, a letter from the Air Transport Employers’ Association (AGVL) was received at 4:59 p.m. The UFO leadership then recommended that its members accept the package immediately before the strike ballot began.

Loss of wages, less pension, protection against dismissal

It is therefore unlikely that the agreement will fail the vote that will run until Friday night. Ufo is still missing some of the information required, but does not want the collective agreement to fail because of this. UFO described the association’s letter as a “small step in the right direction”. The AGVL promises to tackle other tariff issues with UFO in September. The general conditions for job cuts mentioned by Ufo should not be included. “We are currently discussing the operational issues with the responsible staff representatives and want to come to an agreement here as soon as possible,” writes the AGVL.

While Ufo conducts collective bargaining for flight attendants, the staff representation as a body of employee participation is under the influence of Verdi to the displeasure of Ufo. The UFO leadership insists on having a say and wants to be mandated by its members in the strike vote to enforce demands on framework conditions for the crisis tariff. This is how you want to be prepared for a strike in case there are dismissals.

The collective agreement provides for the following points, among other things: a reduction in working hours, which leads to a loss of wages of 7.1 percent, a zero round and a temporary suspension of employer contributions to the company pension scheme. Protection against dismissal is to apply until June 2024. But that could be in question if the liquidity of the Lufthansa Group falls below a critical level and there is still an overhang of 2,000 flight attendant positions.