Lufthansa, Europe’s largest airline, is facing its 15th strike in only two and half years. For a number of reasons, the company’s pilots’ union, the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), has successfully called pilots to strike whenever they feel their work conditions are unjust.
VC’s latest confrontation with Lufthansa is due to the airline’s plan for hiring less remunerated pilots for Eurowings, its low-cost subsidiary. While this might be the VC’s flagship for its latest crusade, it is by far not the only motivation for it. The union argues that its members have not seen a salary increase in over five years.
Bettina Volkens, Chief Officer Corporate of Human Resources and Legal Affairs at Deutsche Lufthansa AG, says that the airline is reaching out to pilots in an attempt to solve the labor dispute. “Our major differences in the failed negotiations for the collective wage agreement appear to be the result of differing views regarding the future development of Lufthansa Group. Although, formally, the labor dispute is only about compensation, we know from discussions with our pilots that many other unresolved collective bargaining issues are also important to them,” said Volkens.
Lufthansa alleges that its pilots are among the top paid in the sector, however they have offered its pilots a 1.8-salary month bonus and a 4.4 percent increase in salaries during the next two years, an offer that has already been rejected by the VC. The union wants an average annual 3.7 percent salary increase over a five-year period starting retroactively from 2012.
Lufthansa tried to avoid the prolongation of the current strike through courts, however its attempts were rejected by the judicial power and the strike was extended.
This is not Lufthansa’s first encounter with long and expensive strikes. In November 2015, the airline faced the longest strike in its history, when flight attendants and stewards stopped working during seven days in a row, affecting 4,600 flights. This week, between Tuesday and Wednesday, the airline has already cancelled 1,700 flights. Every day the strike is prolonged, it costs the airline between US$7.4 and US$9.6 million.
Sources: Lufthansa Group, El Financiero and Fortune Magazine.