Lufthansa offers arbitration to end ‘crippling’ pilots’ strikes

Lufthansa offers arbitration to end ‘crippling’ pilots’ strikes

Lufthansa’s pilots’ union is being offered arbitration on all collective wage agreements as the carrier attempts to end a series of crippling strikes.

The concession is being offered to the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) flight crew union in an ongoing round of collective bargaining talks.

In order to avoid new strikes at the expense of its passengers, Lufthansa has offered VC general arbitration of all open collective wage agreements.

The union has repeatedly demanded general arbitration.

The German carrier has previously rejected this demand on the basis that many collective wage agreements have not yet been negotiated and because not all VC claims regarding some of the contracts which the union itself had terminated, have been formulated.

The strikes cost Lufthansa €232 million last year, and the damage is estimated at an additional €100 million for the first half of 2015, including cancelled bookings, according to the airline’s chief executive Carsten Spohr.

Lufthansa’s legal affairs and human resources managing director, Bettina Volkens, said: “We would have liked to negotiate on open issues with VC before submitting these complex issues to an arbitrator.

“In order to finally settle this long wage dispute, we are willing to take this step.”

Lufthansa has offered to start discussions with VC this week on the selection of an arbitrator.

The pilots’ walkouts over the past year grounded more than 9,300 flights. The cost of the industrial action contributed to the suspension of a dividend for last year as the carrier tried to preserve cash.

Spohr said: “Despite incurring costs in the triple-digit millions as a result of the strikes, we were able to realise our revised forecasts: The Lufthansa Group recorded revenue of €30 billion, posting an operating profit of almost €1 billion.

“However, we are also aware that this will not suffice in the long run.

The adjusted result after one-off effects for the past year was about €1.2 billion. The group’s net profit was significantly below the previous year’s figure at €55 million.”

He added: “The aviation industry has always learnt from tragedies and safety remains our highest priority. We will therefore also continue to gradually expand our leading position in the area of flight safety, by continuing to develop our safety structures.

“This applies irrespective of the brand or collective wage agreements, whereby our standards are today already significantly higher than those statutorily prescribed for the industry.”

The potential breakthrough came as Spohr told shareholders at Lufthansa’s annual meeting in Hamburg that the group has closed ranks since last month’s disaster involving subsidiary Germanwings.

The crash in which a co-pilot intentionally flew an Airbus A320 into a French mountain killing 150 people “has changed us and the scars it has left on the company will remain forever,” he said.

At the same time, “an aviation group or airline cannot stop, not for weeks, not for days and not even for hours,” Sophr added.


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