When the Vereinigung Cockpit union called for the second round of strikes in the wage dispute with Deutsche Lufthansa last week, it seemed clear that not all the points of contention between the union and the company would be resolved in the near future. Both sides then came together at least to the extent that the strike - which had already been announced - did not last several days. Instead, negotiations were resumed, which have now led to a partial result.
The pilots of the core Lufthansa brand, who are subject to the so-called Group collective agreement, will receive increases in two steps: Retroactively as of August 1 and again as of April 1, 2023, their basic monthly pay will rise by 490 euros each - for a total of 980 euros. Lufthansa is thus asserting its will not to pay the same percentage surcharge for all captains and first officers, but to use the fixed amount to narrow the spread in salaries somewhat.
"The increase in basic salary with uniform base amounts leads to the desired disproportionate increase in entry-level salaries," Lufthansa Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Niggemann said Monday. However, the increase is larger than originally planned. Until last week, Lufthansa had offered a total of 900 euros.
The Vereinigung Cockpit, which had demanded that pilots be compensated at least the general inflation. Now the union can announce to its members that at least the lower pay groups in the cockpits - especially co-pilots with few years of service - will receive significantly more. Lufthansa calculates that the increase by the lump sum from April 2023 onwards would amount to a premium of almost 20 percent on the previous basic pay.For the top earners in the cockpit - long-serving captains whose total compensation reaches substantially more than 200,000 euros a year - the agreement means a 5.5 percent premium in the final step, less than current inflation. The Vereinigung Cockpit explains that the agreement was reached "in order to counter high inflation during the term and at the same time to build in a strong social component."
With the agreement, however, details beyond the monthly payments remain unresolved. Nevertheless, passengers should not feel the lack of agreement for the time being through further strikes. The group and the union agreed on a peace obligation until June 30, 2023. "The collective agreements remain open, but the points to be negotiated can now be discussed in a confidential setting," a spokesman for Vereinigung Cockpit said in this regard.
Lufthansa Chief Human Resources Officer Niggemann said: "The common goal is to continue to offer our pilots attractive and secure jobs with development prospects in the future." Now, he said, the company wants to use the next few months "in a trusting dialog" to "find and implement sustainable solutions."
One of the reasons the wage dispute had become more heated was that shortly before Christmas last year - still reeling from the effects of the Corona pandemic - Lufthansa had terminated a perspective agreement (PPV) that stipulated that at least 325 aircraft in the Group would be flown by staff covered by the Lufthansa Group collective agreement. "The PPV fleet commitment fits neither the current crisis nor the medium-term framework conditions," Lufthansa let the pilots know at the time.
The pilots took this as a declaration of war, fearing that more traffic would be shifted to subsidiaries outside the Group pay scale - especially to newly formed unit Eurowings Discover. In the meantime, in view of the increased demand, the categorical cancellation of the perspective agreement is also considered a mistake by the Group's Executive Board. After shrinking during the pandemic, the Group plans to grow its fleet by 13 long-haul and 40 medium-haul aircraft again in 2023.
Lufthansa has also declared its willingness to revive the pact. However, the company is likely to be interested in modifications that will not meet with the approval of the unions. One sticking point is likely to be pilots from the Germanwings operating unit, whose operations were suspended during the pandemic. The number of flights offered by the core Lufthansa brand has not yet returned to a volume that would allow all affected Germanwings pilots to be deployed there.
The Vereinigung Cockpit union had cited regulations on sick leave, vacation and training as other open issues and is calling for a "sustainable solution for the compensation structure in all occupational groups." The union therefore refers to open points insist. "The good monetary result is gratifying, but we are equally pleased that we have been able to take another step toward a more sustainable partnership," said collective bargaining policy chairman Marcel Gröls. For the next months of negotiations, however, he also affirms: "We are currently on a good path with Lufthansa."
Photo by Miguel Angel Sanz