All eyes are on the meeting in a large hotel at Frankfurt Airport, which started this morning. Not only that of the union ver.di, which after the warning strike by the ground staff last week in the collective bargaining is now hoping for a clear concession on the part of Lufthansa; but also that of vacationers and business passengers who are hoping for crucial news: the averting of further warning strikes through a tariff solution. That would also be in the interest of the airline, the strikes cost a lot of money.
Compromise instead of confrontation?
Ver.di recently went on a confrontational course. Exactly one week ago, a large number of the approximately 20,000 Lufthansa ground staff employees stopped work for a day from Wednesday to Thursday morning. The two largest German airports in Frankfurt am Main and Munich were largely paralyzed as a result. More than 1,000 flights were canceled and around 134,000 passengers suffered, including many vacationers.
"We hope that the employers have understood the signal and will present us with an offer that can be closed," ver.di negotiator Christine Behle told tagesschau.de before the start of the new collective bargaining round. "We took two days and hope to be able to achieve a result in this round. But that depends on whether the employers are willing to approach us more strongly," said the deputy ver.di chairwoman.
The workers' union continues to demand a uniform wage increase of 9.5 percent or at least 350 euros more per month for Lufthansa ground staff, i.e. employees of Lufthansa AG Ground, Lufthansa Technik, Lufthansa Cargo and other subsidiaries of the company. These include check-in staff, but also technicians and logisticians, without whose services the aircraft cannot take off. ver.di wants a new collective agreement for them with a term of twelve months.
Differences and similarities
Lufthansa, on the other hand, has previously offered a term of 18 months. At least an approximation seems feasible here. Employers and employees are a little further apart when it comes to monthly salary increases. Lufthansa wants to agree on fixed amounts that, although they represent an increase of up to almost 15 percent in the lower remuneration range, are below the 350 euros per month demanded by ver.di. In the upper salary classes, the percentage increase is also significantly lower than 9.5 percent.
Biggest point of criticism from ver.di: The airline also wants to make increases dependent on its own business development – which brings with it further uncertainties in the current pandemic situation. "What was offered in the second round was clearly not enough," explains ver.di representative Behle. "In addition, the employers only wanted to make a second increase in a result-oriented manner. However, that would be a blank check for the employees and therefore out of the question for us."
Both sides sound willing to compromise
For its part, Lufthansa is looking forward to the negotiations on Wednesday and Thursday. "We are optimistic about the talks with ver.di and are confident that we can jointly agree on solutions for the 20,000 employees of Deutsche Lufthansa AG in the negotiations," says the statement by Lufthansa spokesman Martin Leutke.
According to information from tagesschau.de, the situation behind the scenes is assessed in such a way that there should be a solution to the wage dispute this week, also because both parties do not seem to be that far apart in their ideas. And ver.di Vice President Behle emphasizes: "Of course, compromises always have to be made by both sides in negotiations." But the crane airline has to improve its offer significantly and move, according to Behle. "That's what the employees, who are under enormous pressure, both in terms of workload and financially, expect."
More warning strikes?
Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) called on both sides to find a quick solution before the upcoming negotiations, thereby increasing the pressure again. At the beginning of the week, ver.di celebrated success when the union was able to agree wage increases for ground staff of up to 26 percent with several small handling companies at German airports. Lufthansa, on the other hand, is in a difficult overall situation because the Lufthansa pilots also voted in favor of a strike in a ballot last Sunday after collective bargaining got stuck. However, the group is still trying to prevent this.
A timely solution between Lufthansa and its ground staff could at least provide a little relaxation at German airports, also for the many travelers during the holiday season. However, ver.di negotiator Behle warns: "Employers have it in their hands to avert further warning strikes."