Friday, February 19, 2010

Lufthansa pilot strike slated for next week

by B. N. Sullivan

LufthansaThe pilots at German flag carrier Lufthansa have announced plans to strike after contract talks between the airline's management and the pilots' union, Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), broke down. The pilots intend to strike for four days, beginning Monday, February 22, 2010. VC stated earlier this week that more than 90 per cent of the union membership had voted in favor of striking.

Lufthansa pilots would like a pay raise, however the main topic of contention in the contract negotiations has to do with job security. In particular, the Lufthansa pilots want well-defined scope clauses in their contract, assuring that the routes they fly are not transferred to Lufthansa's recently acquired subsidiaries, such as Lufthansa Italia and Austrian Airlines, where pilot pay is much lower.

Similar issues have arisen repeatedly in the United States as pilots at mainline legacy carriers see more an more of their work outsourced to smaller regional carriers, which pay their pilots significantly less. It is the view of the pilots that this practice not only threatens their own job security, but ultimately lowers the standard for pilot wages and working conditions across the board.

According to an article about the intended strike on the German news Web site, the industrial action will affect around 4,500 pilots at Lufthansa, its freight subsidiary Lufthansa Cargo, and budget airline Germanwings, which is wholly owned by Lufthansa.

UPDATE February 22, 2010: The Lufthansa pilots have begun their strike, as announced. Lufthansa management is seeking help from the German courts to halt the strike, which is said to be the largest in German aviation history. reports:
The airline's management applied for a court injunction on Monday to try to force the pilots to return to work. A spokeswoman for the airline said the strike was having a disproportionate impact and that the management had a responsibility to prevent damage to the firm, its staff and its shareholders.

The Frankfurt labour court will consider Lufthansa's request at a hearing on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. CET (4.30 p.m. GMT). Lufthansa is claiming that the strike is in breach of rules governing labor relations, the court said.

UPDATE #2: BBC News is reporting that the Lufthansa pilots have now suspended their strike and have agreed to resume negotiations with the airline's management. There will be "no further action until at least March 9."