For everything there is a season, but a “warning” strike in the midst of one of the busiest weeks of travel merits our scorn. Yet that is exactly what ground staff workers are doing today at Lufthansa, forcing Lufthansa to cancel over 1,000 flights and strand more than 100,000 passengers.
Selfish Lufthansa Strike Needlessly Strands Hundreds Of Thousands
The Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft (Ver.di) trade union, which represents over 20,000 Lufthansa ground staff employees, says that Lufthansa’s recent wage offer is too small. It argues:
The situation at the airports is escalating. Workers are under immense pressure due to a significant shortage of staff, high inflation and a three-year wage cut. They urgently need more money and they need relief – for themselves and for optimal service for you, the passengers.
That is why ver.di demands a salary increase of 9.5 percent for a period of twelve months, but at least 350 euros per month and at least 13 euros per hour. Some Lufthansa companies currently have hourly wages of less than 12 euros.
It further claims that Lufthansa is unwilling to offer enough and will tie any permanent wage gains to the company’s financial performance:
In view of the wage negotiations to date, Lufthansa is not willing to sufficiently respond to our demands. Instead, it offers a significant real wage loss depending on a positive group result. The offers neither compensate for the high inflation nor do they do justice to the stressful situation.
The remuneration is already not sufficient to organize enough new staff and thus relieve and smooth air traffic. The attractiveness of Lufthansa as an employer will continue to decline. We want air traffic and Lufthansa to get back on course – this requires clear and binding investments in personnel.
I’m not anti-labor. I also understand that prices are rising in Germany and economic headwinds point to great uncertainty about the future. Therefore, it makes sense that Lufthansa ground staff would wish to secure the best possible deal right now. But from what I can see, the Lufthansa offer is at least a starting point and not a reason to strike.
Lufthansa has proposed the following:
- an increase in basic pay of 150 euros per month as of July 1, 2022 for 18 months
- a further basic pay increase of 100 euros per month as of January 1, 2023 for 18 months
- an additional 2% percent increase in compensation as of July 1, 2023, subject to how the business develops.
Michael Niggemann, Lufthansa’s Chief Human Resources, lambasted the union for its decision to strike:
“After only two days of negotiations, ver.di has announced a strike that can hardly be called a warning strike due to its breadth across all locations and its duration. This is all the more incomprehensible given that the employer side has offered high and socially balanced pay increases – despite the continuing tense economic situation for Lufthansa following the COVID crisis, high debt burdens and uncertain prospects for the global economy.
“After the enormous efforts to stabilize our flight operations, this represents a renewed, substantial and unnecessary burden for our passengers and also for our employees beyond the strike day.”
Niggemann is correct. Lufthansa is right to be hesitant over committing to higher wages in light of inflation and the threat of global recession, but it has. Ver.di is correct that there has been tremendous attrition during the pandemic, making it all the more clear that those workers who remain are there because they do not have a better choice.
That is not a position of weakness, but undermines the argument that there exists a tremendous imbalance between wage and duty. Addressing passengers, Ver.di says, “We understand very well if you are angry that you are affected by this tariff dispute and we are sorry” but it is not sorry…it hopes to inflict maximum pain on the public in hopes of bringing Lufthansa to its knees.
After this “warning” strike, the next round of negotiations will take place August 3-4th.
I find the union choice to strike during the one of the busiest weeks of the German travel season to be selfish and counterproductive toward securing the kind of long-term stability it claims it is after. Lufthansa’s offer is reasonable and at the very least, a starting point from which to build upon.
Lufthansa has cancelled over 1,000 flights, impacting over 130,000 passengers as it deals with a “warning” strike form its ground staff. Although the strike is only for about 27 hours, it will have ripple effects impacting travel for the next week.
While the union claims this action is necessary to secure contract concessions, it leaves the public angry and far less sympathetic to its so-called plight. Rather than engage in a strike, it should engage in constructive dialogue, seeking to build upon an offer that is arguably already generous.