After two days of intense negotiations with two of the unions representing most of its workers, Cargolux appears to have narrowly averted a strike as the all-cargo carrier’s previous collective work agreement (CWA) expired on Dec. 1. Late on Tuesday evening this week, Cargolux announced that a “major breakthrough” had been reached with the unions, OGBL and LCGB, possibly ending a dispute that had appeared to be headed toward industrial action.
“The last intensive rounds of negotiations focused on crew related items,” said the Luxembourg-based airfreight carrier in an upbeat press release. “The perseverance of the negotiating teams yielded a principle agreement with both unions on the new CWA terms that sends a strong signal on the company’s commitment to job security for our staff and an increased support towards maintaining the competitiveness of Luxembourg as the prime air freight hub in Europe.”
It was not until Wednesday morning, however, that representatives of the Luxembourg unions officially acknowledged the breakthrough – albeit in a more muted tone. In a statement from the LCGB, the union said that, “although no final agreement could be reached, and the LCGB cannot sign the slightly too enthusiastic press release by Cargolux, today’s negotiation round brought new movement to the Cargolux collective work agreement negotiations. Cargolux and the unions will continue their negotiations in the upcoming days with the intention of finding an acceptable solution for all parties involved.”
The Association Luxembourgeoise des Pilotes de Ligne, which represents the country’s airline pilots, described the attitude of LCGB and OGBL unions as “very cautious” regarding further negotiations.
According to The Loadstar, Hubert Hollerich, of the OGBL union, which represents mostly ground crews, said a deal had been hammered out regarding the use of Cargolux Italia pilots on Luxembourg routes, adjustments on pilot vacations and a restructuring of the joint-crew schedule committee. All that’s left, he added, will be “fine tuning.”
Other details were not immediately available about the terms that were reportedly agreed upon, but Cargolux said the tentative deal “clears the road to growth and financial sustainability” for the carrier and for the Luxembourg cargo industry.
The agreement came after an extended period of deadlock and a flurry of negotiating tactics in the last week of November. Cargolux began the marathon 12-hour meeting with the unions on Monday, Nov. 30, with an offer to hire 120 new employees in 2016 – 20 ground crew staff and 100 pilots – to keep pace with its rapid expansion and take pressure off flight crews, who had complained about not getting enough rest in between flights. Cargolux also said it would replace its two 747-400BCF freighters with three nose-loading 747-400Fs, thus expanding its fleet from 25 to 26 aircraft by the third quarter of 2016.
Cargolux, OGBL and LCGB said they hope to complete all labor negotiations by this Friday, Dec. 4.