UPDATE Sep 13 – A pilot strike at Lufthansa has been lingering on for some weeks, but the threat is getting to a climax on Friday, September 2. Pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit has called out for a 24-hour strike at Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo. The airline has canceled 800 flights. Lufthansa pilots are next to go on strike.
Already on August 25, Cockpit announced that strikes were imminent after negotiations with Lufthansa about a new collective salary agreement had ended inconclusively. The union offered to enter a new round but said in a statement on August 31 that negotiations had failed that day as the airline management was unwilling to up its offer.
“Our positions are far apart. Except for compensation for the inflation, we need above all a sustainable solution for the pay structure of all pilot groups”, Marcel Gröls of Cockpit said in a media statement. The union states that Lufthansa has wasted a good opportunity to get a deal done and is now confronted with a strike that, unfortunately, hits passengers and the company.
How far the two parties are divided is clear from the Lufthansa statement that was released today. Michael Niggerman, Chief Human Resources Officer and Labor Director said: “We cannot understand VC’s call for a strike. The management has made a very good and socially balanced offer – despite the continuing burdens of the Covid crisis and uncertain prospects for the global economy. This escalation comes at the expense of many thousands of customers.”
The airline has canceled 800 flights in Frankfurt and Munich, which are affecting an estimated 130.000 passengers. Lufthansa says it is working with ‘joint forces’ to return its operations to normal status as quickly as possible, but the strike comes at a moment when holidays in some regions in Germany come to an end. The impact of the strike will likely last until Sunday. Subsidiaries Eurowings and Eurowings Discover are unaffected, although Cockpit has a separate disagreement with Eurowings that could result in a strike at a later date.
Demands unacceptable to Lufthansa
Lufthansa says it has offered pilots an 18-month contract, with a €900 salary increase in two phases. The new pay scheme will in particular benefit pilots at an entry-level of their career, as they would get an eighteen percent pay increase over the current scheme. Senior pilots would earn five percent more. The airline has also offered to conclude a new perspective agreement, that includes guarantees to pilots about the minimum fleet size at Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo. The current agreement is now five years old.
According to Lufthansa, the demands from Vereinigung Cockpit would result in a sixteen percent increase in salaries over a two-year period, including a basic 5.5 percent plus an automatic compensation for inflation. Additional demands for secondary terms would result in a total pay rise of 41 percent and an increase in salary costs of €2.2 billion, which is unacceptable to the airline.
The carrier says in its media statement that nowhere more than at Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo, there have been investments in the growth of both the fleet and the number of pilots. The Covid-crisis has interfered, with 380 older pilots having been offered attractive terms for early retirement. At the same time, the airline will hire and train new pilots and promote 300 officers to the role of captain, of which 125 this year.
Lufthansa also needs to find a solution on how to employ some 250 captains that used to fly with Germanwings but risk unemployment after the subsidiary has been dissolved. CEO Carsten Spohr said in March that Lufthansa want to create a new regional airline alongside Lufthansa CityLine that would offer opportunities to the ex-Germanwings pilots and prevent their dismissal.
The Friday strike comes on the back of a ground crew strike by union ver.di and others at the end of July. It ended with an agreement on August 4. “With the agreement for the ground staff, the Group has shown that it is prepared to make significant pay increases”, it says in the statement.
UPDATE September 6 and 12 – Lufthansa and Cockpit concluded a partial agreement on September 6 that will be further worked out in more detail. With the agreement, the union called off a strike that was announced for September 7/8. On September 12, a full agreement was confirmed. This includes a two-part pay increase of €980, and an average twenty percent increase of entry-level salaries of co-pilots or five percent for captains. Importantly, the two parties agreed on a ‘peace obligation’ that excludes any pilot strikes until June 30, 2023. The airline and union say they will establish a ‘trusting dialogue’ over the coming months.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.