Monday, July 27, 2015

European Freight Only Air Cargo Carrier Settles with Staff

Questions Over Safety Remain However According to Some
Shipping News Feature

LUXEMBOURG – After a protracted series of discussions between freight only airline Cargolux and Luxembourg’s OGBL union, which represents some of the company’s pilots amongst others, it seems a partial peace may have broken out. The pair have apparently reached an agreement on the main points of a new collective work agreement, covering a period of three years, effective October 2015.

The tone of the last release differs vastly from the language flying around at the beginning of the month, as is so often the case when industrial relations are involved. On July 6 another vested union interest, the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LCGB) and a signatory to the previous collective agreement, was talking of ‘union measures’ if given a mandate by members, and saying that Cargolux management were putting ‘the entire safety culture at risk’ as a result of the management’s failure to act conforming to established rules.

The LCGB accused the carrier of brushing aside a ‘wing wave’ incident and taking no action against the pilots concerned, saying there had been a ‘near catastrophe’ whilst dismissing four other pilots for taking sick leave. This position was largely supported by the ALPL (Association Luxembourgeoise des Pilotes de Ligne), an association, not a union, which represents around 500 Luxembourg based pilots and which is dead set against global airline liberalisation which it believes will cause a disastrous drop in air safety standards.

Management reaction was equally emphatic, with accusations of illegal actions by the LCGB union, and a Court order demanding continuation of normal work under the existing agreement. The ALPL responded by insisting it had never used the word ‘strike’, not something the LCGB could claim having stated ‘a member survey to this effect is currently under way and union measures ranging up to a strike can no longer be ruled out’. Mattias Pak, Cargolux’s Head of Aviation Safety, and a recent appointee as Group Safety Officer, made the following comments:

“Regarding LCGB’s accusation in respect to safety culture and its mentioned examples, I would like to clarify some issues. Cargolux’s internal process calls for a structured investigation to be done in case of an event. For the ‘wing wave’, the Aviation Safety Department issued a full ICAO Annex 13 Type investigation even though neither the FAA/NTSB nor the Luxembourg authorities categorised it as such severe. The final report was presented to the Luxembourg Civil Aviation Authority (DAC) and accepted. Employee representatives were also debriefed on the report and acknowledged it. All recommendations of the report were accepted by the responsible departments and implemented.

“Additionally, during a process of more than one year, a Just Culture policy was created following industry standards. During this process, delegation members were part of the team and a joint agreement was achieved last year. The policy became effective on January 1, 2015, 11 months ahead of the EU requirement of having a Just Culture policy in place. In order to enhance the Just Culture process, during the last month, the composition of the Event Review Group (ERG) has been discussed internally and it was agreed that front line personnel would become a part of this group in the near future.

“Our safety reporting system, which has been in place since the 1990s, is there for staff to report their concerns in regard to safety issues. We encourage all our staff to use this system to report any safety weaknesses and hazards to allow the organization to implements actions to reduce the risk. I can confirm that, during 2015, Cargolux has been audited by the DAC, IATA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) and EASA, all these audits have confirmed that Cargolux complies with all applicable regulations and also all safety processes are up to date and following industry practices.”

The new collective work agreement would appear to divide and conquer. It will apparently largely preserve the working conditions for existing staff and will offer more part-time contracts for staff, with new pilots being offered more duty days. The new European Flight Time Limitations are being introduced and there are new pay and performance enhancements. In addition there will be a cap on the number of Cargolux Italia aircraft, a long standing bone of contention. The safety issue however seems far from resolved and, given the company’s history of niggling disputes, it may be some time before this is achieved.