UPDATE: As I mentioned, pilots left open room for negotiation. A strike for tomorrow has now been averted…for now.
UPDATE: Lufthansa pilots shave announced a new strike this week, set to take place Wednesday and Thursday. The strike will last from 12:01 am on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, until 11:59 pm on Thursday, September 8, 2022.
A spokesperson for the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union representing Lufthasna pilots lamented:
“Despite intensive talks between our collective bargaining committee and the employer, no conclusion could be reached about a promising continuation of the negotiations.
“We’re too far apart at the moment. In addition to compensating for the loss in real wages, what we now need above all is a future-proof solution for the remuneration structure in all professional groups.”
Lufthans claims the demands, in total, would increase its payroll costs by more than 40%.
“VC is not only demanding a 5.5 percent wage increase by the end of the year as a first step, but also additional compensation above inflation as of January 2023. According to current estimates, this would increase the payroll cost for cockpit personnel at Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo by a good 16 percent over the two-year period proposed by VC.
“In addition, VC is demanding, among other things, a new pay scale with a higher base salary as well as more money, for example, for sick days, vacation or training. In addition to the 16 percent, this would increase cockpit payroll costs by a further 25 percentage points based on data from previous years. Even without taking the financial consequences of the Covid crisis into account, this is not acceptable.
“In total, the demands of VC would increase cockpit payroll costs from 2.2 billion euros by probably more than 40 percent – or approximately 900 million euros – over the next two years.”
Lufthansa has not loaded the strike into its schedule yet, but expect almost all flights to be cancelled Wednesday and Thursday. However, this is a small sliver of hope. A spokesperson for VC further added:
“In order to leave no stone unturned in this situation, we have nevertheless offered a hearing for Tuesday. According to reports, this will take place. However, it must be clear that the announced strike can only be averted by a serious offer from the company.”
The original article appears below.
Lufthansa has canceled over 800 flights today (September 2nd) after pilots staged a last-minute strike protesting the inability to reach a deal over pay raises meant to account for inflation. The usual finger-pointing is at play, making me wonder why we have to go through this song and dance so often…
Lufthansa Pilots Strike Again – Over 800 Flights Cancelled, Stranding 130,000 Passengers
Strikes can come about quickly in Germany. On Wednesday, contract negotiations stalled between Lufthansa and the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union representing pilots. That led to an announcement that pilots would stage a 24-hour strike on Friday.
Lufthansa has offered all pilots an extra €900 in monthly salary, which would take effect in two stages over 18 months. While that would represent close to a 20% raise for many junior pilots, it would represent only a 5% raise for more senior pilots. Inflation in Germany is already running at more than 5% annually.
VC has demanded an immediate 5.5% pay raise (not phased in over 18 months) and asked for automatic upward adjustments for inflation thereafter. Importantly, it also wants Eurowings pilots to fall under the same payscale as Lufthansa pilots, a strategic demand to stop the carrier’s expansion. Eurowings is a budget airline and wholly-owned subsidiary of the Lufthansa group.
Michael Niggemann, Lufthansa’s head of Human Resources reacted angrily to the strike:
“We lack any understanding of the VC’s call for strikes. The employer side has made a very good and socially balanced offer – despite the retroactive burden of the corona crisis and uncertain prospects for the global economy.”
A Lufthansa spokesperson was more measured:
“We hope to get back to negotiations as soon as possible. However, we cannot bear the cost increases associated with VC’s demands either.”
Unlike Niggemann, I do understand the great gulf that exists between offers. It isn’t clear to me what constituted such a breakdown in talks that a strike became necessary today, but strikes have long been an effective tool of organized labor in Germany to receive desired results.
Just last month, Lufthansa ground workers staged a similar strike…and ultimately won many of the concessions they were seeking.
Ultimately, this is the same old song and dance we’ve seen play out frequently over the years. Lufthansa will have to have to improve its offer or else the strikes will continue. The ease in which workers can strike in Germany even in essential industries means that Lufthansa won’t win this battle.
On one level I understand why strikes are called so often in Germany…it is because they work. On the other hand, these labor negotiation stories seem to write themselves, with Lufhtasna blasting the union, the union blasting Lufthansa, and eventually a compromise being struck that is closer to the union offer, but not quite. Was a strike really necessary here? I’m sick of this pageantry. With winter coming and energy prices set to soar in Germany, I cannot blame the pilots for wanting to keep up with inflation…Lufthansa will lose this battle.