Finnair continues its restructuring plans in the midst of deep social unrest within the airline. It announced today that in total 147 managerial jobs will be reduced and implemented by the end of February as part of its cost-reduction efforts. At the same time, the carrier had to cancel 100 flights due to a cabin crew strike on Sunday and Monday. Strike hurts Finnair as job reductions are formalized.

In September, Finnair announced a strategy and network review to restore profitability. This was heavily affected by ongoing travel restrictions in its key markets in Asia since the start of the pandemic. The situation deteriorated even more following the closure of Russian airspace to Western airlines after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. The re-routing of flights and high fuel prices have made it virtually impossible for Finnair to profitably operate the remaining routes to Asia.

In late September, CEO Topi Manner announced that some 200 jobs out of 5.300 were to be reduced, including 120 out of 770 managerial roles within the airline. After change negotiations have been concluded, it is clear that approximately ninety roles in Finnair and 57 outside the country will be reduced. “I’m deeply sorry that we must take these difficult but necessary measures in our quest to restore our profitability,” Manner says in a media statement. Affected staff is offered re-employment through a career coaching and training program.

Another 450 jobs are likely to be reduced within the airline’s Inflight services out of 1.750 roles based in Finland. Finnair announced on November 16 that it had started change negotiations to subcontract inflight services to external partners on routes to and from Thailand and the US, effective late 2023. This is already common practice on flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, India, and the recently announced routes to Doha routes from Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Initial discussions with cabin crew on how to achieve cost savings resulted in an agreement with some employee groups on modifying employment terms, like improving crew utilization efficiency by changing layover hotel rules or paying extra per hour for long flights. But the Finnish cabin crew didn’t support the proposal. Our target continues to be to find a savings solution together with our cabin crew. We now need a genuine will from the negotiators to find solutions that would allow us to continue inflight service with our own crew, and avoid redundancies. Discussion on alternative solutions is a vitally important part of the change negotiations process”, says Topi Manner.

Union calls out ‘illegal strike’

Although six-week negotiations are to start in earnest only this Wednesday, Transport Workers Union AKT called out a strike that started on Sunday, November 20 at 3 pm and lasted for 24 hours. The strike forced Finnair to cancel some 100 flights out of Helsinki airport, but not those operational by cabin crew that is already contracted externally or work for regional airline Norra.

Chief Operating Officer Jaako Schildt regretted that AKT “has chosen the path of an illegal strike instead of negotiations. Throughout the autumn we have discussed savings possibilities with the unions, but unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve a result with the cabin crew. We still hope to find solutions together.”

AKT responded by saying that “of course, employers have always been quick to complain about the illegality of the protests, but in the case of Finnair, one would be tempted to remind you of the old proverb about cauldrons and pots – if Finnair’s wings, in this case, were not much darker black than in any food cooking container.”

The union says that it made its own cost reduction proposals that were rejected by Finnair. “Finnair is now openly blackmailing its own employees in order to cut wages,” a union representative says. “The purpose of the walkout is to wake up the management of the state-owned company Finnair to the fact that this cannot be done and that there can be no personnel policy that blackmails employees into lowering their salaries.

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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