Collective bargaining: Expensive dismissal protection (neue-deutschland.de)

Lufthansa pilots in the cockpit

Photo: dpa / Fabian Sommer

Painful loss of income for around 35,000 employees on the ground is the core of a crisis agreement between the service union Verdi and the board of the ailing Lufthansa group. The result of the negotiations was approved by a majority in the union group collective bargaining committee. As a Verdi spokeswoman for this newspaper confirmed when asked, the negotiators on both sides had already agreed on an extensive paper on Tuesday. However, it will only take effect if a majority in the upcoming written survey of the Verdi members in the Lufthansa Group subsidiaries concerned is in favor of acceptance.

The agreed package has a relatively short term until December 31, 2021. It excludes redundancies for the affected employees during this period and includes de facto protection against layoffs until March 31, 2022. The price for this is very high and will be paid by Verdi puts it at 200 million euros, which the company’s employees are now supposed to flush into the coffers as a de facto wage sacrifice. In detail, the union is foregoing any increase in income in the current and coming year and is suspending the corresponding remuneration rounds. The cancellation of the Christmas bonus for 2020 and 2021 and the cancellation of the holiday bonus for 2021 were also agreed.

For many employees who had long since planned the Christmas bonus due at the end of November with the wage transfer, this should be a severe blow in the weeks leading up to Christmas. “If there is no approval in the member survey, the 2020 Christmas bonus will be paid in December,” says a member information sheet from the tariff commission. How the majority of the members rate this remains to be seen. The increase in the short-time allowance, on which many Lufthansa employees currently live, will be reduced from 90 percent to 87 percent. According to Verdi, this also expanded the collective bargaining protection to increase short-time allowance for around 6,000 employees in the group, who previously threatened to revert to the lower statutory rate due to poorer regulations.

For employees who are 100 percent on short-time work in 2021, the vacation entitlement will also be reduced to the statutory limit of 20 days. The fact that this is the first time that the collectively agreed annual vacation is actually touched could arouse new desires among Lufthansa management beyond the term of the contract and also affect other industries. Further points in the agreed package provide for continued partial retirement regulations for age groups close to retirement as well as programs for “voluntary retirement” and “socially acceptable downsizing”. “Now Lufthansa has to deal responsibly with this employee loan,” said Verdi Vice President Christine Behle, who also acts as Lufthansa deputy chairwoman of the supervisory board. Strictly speaking, the wage sacrifices are not a repayable interest-free loan from the employees to the corporate headquarters, but a concession forced under massive pressure and according to the motto “eat or die”.

It remains to be seen whether the company bosses will actually honor the wage waiver. According to insiders, the protection against dismissal currently agreed with Verdi is more “watertight” than the provisions that were concluded in July between the flight attendant union UFO and Lufthansa and could expire prematurely in 2021. The next few months will show whether the management takes seriously the waiver of redundancies in the contract with Verdi. Or whether the massive downsizing is not thinking about redundancies due to operational reasons in order to put employees under pressure and suggest that they resign themselves. According to the latest reports and in view of the ongoing slump in air traffic, insiders do not completely rule out the group’s bankruptcy in the coming year.

According to media reports, major shareholder Heinz-Hermann Thiele, who had increased his influence on corporate policy by purchasing shares in the summer, is insisting on cutting 30,000 jobs and selling all or part of the Lufthansa technology division. In the meantime, the sale of the group subsidiary LSG Sky Chefs (LSG), which is responsible for on-board catering, to the Singapore-based Gategroup, which was launched in response to the protest of many concerned and planned for the beginning of 2020, has been delayed. The LSG workforce had for years waived money and vacation days and worked longer without compensation. The hope of being able to stay in the »Lufthansa family« did not come up.

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