European labor woes continue after Air France strike

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After the two-week pilots strike ended at Air France on Sept. 29, costing the carrier an estimated €280 million, the European airfreight industry continued to reel this week with simmering labor unrest about potential outsourcing that could end up disrupting more cargo shipments in the near future.

At Air France-KLM, the resolution of the strike on Monday looked more like an uneasy truce than a victory for either side. The pilots’ union, SNPL, did force Air France to cancel plans to expand its low-cost Transavia airline across Europe and focus on France instead, but there was no resolution about the union’s more pressing concern: Assurance that Transavia pilots would be offered the same contracts as Air France pilots. Paying Transavia pilots the same as their Air France counterparts could make the budget Transavia airline unprofitable, but creating a secondary tier for Transavia pilots leaves the door open to future labor disruptions by SNPL.

A number of Cargolux pilots belonging to the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LCGB) are engaging in a “work-to-rule” protest against the carrier’s Sept. 25 decision to move the second of its eleven 747-400Fs, along with 25 jobs, to its Cargolux Italia subsidiary. According to a report from The Loadstar, LCBG called the transfer an act of “social dumping” and part of a larger scheme to outsource jobs in the name of reducing costs.

The union called for pilots to end their flexible scheduling practices, which means refusing to volunteer to fly on off days or extending their hours during times of high demand. The work-to-rule tactic, in effect since last Friday, is large enough to likely cause “considerable delays” and disruptions in Cargolux’s routes, LCBG said.  

Meanwhile, Lufthansa pilots struck for 15 hours on Sept. 30, canceling about 50 long-haul flights out of Frankfurt International (FRA) and impacting the schedules of 70 to 80 flights, fleet-wide, between Monday and Wednesday as the carrier scrambled to reshuffle crews.

The Lufthansa action was centered on the carrier’s current policy of allowing pilots to retire early, at age 55, and still receive up to 60% of their pay before their pension plans kick in. Cost-conscious Lufthansa wants to scrap the plan and raise the average retirement age to about 60, while the pilot’s union, Vereinigung Cockpit, is fighting to maintain it.

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