In what has turned into an increasingly bitter dispute, could the union that represents some 20,000 flight attendants at Lufthansa, as well as the low-cost subsidiary Eurowings be about to announce industrial action – including a crippling strike? If that is the case, we should know by the 14th October according to the Independent Flight Attendants Association, or UFO as its more commonly known.
The two sides have been arguing for months over pay, working conditions and a whole host of other grievances with the last collective bargaining agreement for cabin crew at the German flag-carrier lapsing back in June. But Lufthansa isn’t in any mood to get back around the negotiating table or concede to any of the UFO’s demands.
In fact, Lufthansa doesn’t even think the UFO should be representing its flight attendants and has told union leaders that it doesn’t recognise it as an official union. Lawyers from the airline applied to the Hessian State Labor Court in August asking for a judicial review on the legitimacy of the union to even represent flight attendants.
Lufthansa argues a power struggle at the top of the union has left it without effective leadership and it can therefore no longer properly fulfil its role as a proper bargaining partner. Nicoley Baublies, who headed the UFO until earlier this year, was forced to step down from his role after allegations of nepotism and fraud engulfed the union.
Subsequent attempts to get the union back on its feet have been criticised by Lufthansa for failing to follow the correct legal procedures.
For its part, the union says the individual committee’s that represents cabin crew at different airlines have been working properly and effectively despite the difficulties at the top. They claim they remain able and willing to deal with Lufthansa management and renegotiate a bargaining agreement.
That being said, a ballot on potential industrial action that was posted to cabin crew in July had to be suspended when questions were raised about the union’s legitimacy to even hold such vote. The results were never published and it’s unknown whether the union would have the right to call a strike – and if it did, such a call would surely be challenged through the courts.
As it stands, Lufthansa is pushing ahead with a cost-cutting programme and if the courts rule in its favour it also will be able to impose a new contract on flight attendants. Grievances remain disputed, including Lufthansa’s decision to cut a collective bonus pot to less than €20 million.
We’ve reached out to Lufthansa for comment but had not received a response by the time of publication.