Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Threat of Cargo Stoppage Still Hangs Over Largest European Air Freight Only Carrier

Dispute Drags On Despite Previous Signs of Compromise
Shipping News Feature
LUXEMBOURG – With a meeting of the Cargolux Board of Directors scheduled for 25 November the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LCGB) has appealed to shareholders to persuade the freight only airline management to conclude a mutually acceptable compromise on a new collective work agreement (CWA), thereby averting industrial actions at Europe’s largest air cargo carrier. This dispute has dragged on for over a year and in July it seemed peace may have broken out, with the bones of a deal for implementation in October then apparently seen as a reasonable balance for both sides.

The union insists that the LCGB savings package, which it reckons will reduce personnel costs by $10 million, would see the airline’s current and future pilots bearing the brunt of that reduction. Failure to accept a compromise, which the LCGB believes would enable Cargolux management to forego the outsourcing of aircraft, and crucially flight deck staff, it says will result in industrial action.

Furthermore the LCGB says a deal would not only satisfy the unions' core claim in the ongoing negotiations, but it would also further assure that the Luxembourg State retained tax revenues and social insurance contributions worth up to €5 million per year. A ballot of LCGB members recorded a 94% approval of industrial action if no acceptable agreement is found.

Last week the Association Luxembourgeoise des Pilotes de Ligne (ALPL) representing more than 95% of the pilots at Cargolux requested assistance from the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA). This move was again designed to pressurise management, as the help wanted included a request that pilots at other airlines should be supportive when asked by their airlines to provide additional flights to meet the capacity demands created by the dispute, in other words, in the event of a strike, Cargolux would be unable to service its customers.

These pronouncements by the unions differ starkly from the management line. On November 11 a meeting between the two sides prompted the management to comment that a ‘principle agreement’ had been reached with both unions affecting 750 ground staff, totalling 62% of all employees in Luxembourg covered by the CWA. It mentions a meeting to be held on November 30, the day the current CWA expires, and that all parties agreed to continue the discussions in order to find agreement on conditions related to pilots.

Furthermore it reiterated that the airline would ‘continue to honour the conditions of the current CWA with respect to current ground staff and for existing pilots, only implementing changes relating to flight time limitations resulting from new European regulations’.

On November 12 the European Cockpit Association (ECA), which represents over 38,000 pilots in 37 European states published an excellent position paper on the Future Aviation Package, which itself is to be published by the European Commission on December 2 (provisional edition from November 11 readable here). This EC publication ranges across various aspects from safety to social issues and fair competition, all key factors in the Cargolux dispute.