Cabin crew unions at Eurowings, a low-cost subdivision of Lufthansa, will soon vote on whether to strike this summer. A vote to strike could spread to Lufthansa mainline cabin crews.
Talks broke down this week after Lufthansa approached the union seeking cost cuts. Its Eurowings division has been a loss-leaders and expansion after the collapse of Air Berlin has not resulted in the revenue nor the profit projected. Hoping to stem the loss, Lufthansa is reevaluating its entire Eurowings strategy and cutting growth.
Speaking after the collapse of negotiations, a union leader told Bloomberg:
Another summer of chaos looms if the company doesn’t change its approach.
Last year, problems airport security checkpoints, particularly in Frankfurt, caused a summer of chaos. Security screeners could not keep up with the massive traffic passing through the airport, causing multi-hour lines and stranding many passengers. Those issues have not been fully resolved and a cabin strike would only exacerbate the issue. A summer of chaos indeed…
A union leader further added:
Lufthansa has managed to knowingly escalate its pay conflicts with union members, against all logic and shareholder interest.
While there is no question Lufthansa has managed to escalate conflict with its union members, I’m not sure there is no logic or shareholder interest behind it, considering what a disappointment Eurowings has been to the Lufthansa Group.
Eurowings and Germanwings are still technically separate units (though all now operate under the Eurowings banner). This dispute directly involves 900 Eurowings flight attendants and 1300 flight attendants from Germanwings. But since flight attendants within Lufthansa have acted in solidarity before, a cabin strike by Eurowings could spread to Lufthansa mainline as well.
For now, mark this story as developing. The union must tread carefully because a strike may well be met with permanent route slashings and a reduction in workforce. Under German law, that cannot be done in retaliation but can be done as a necessary “re-structure” of a company. Lufthansa has some wiggle room…but must tread carefully.