Could this be the end of a bitter industrial dispute which has left cabin crew at Dutch flag carrier, KLM without a collective labour agreement for over a year? Flight attendants are unhappy with a series of cost-cutting measures made by the airline and a plan to reduce costs even further by 20% over the next few years.
The situation recently got so bad, a union for some cabin crew at the airline threatened to go on strike for 24 hours on the 8th January. At the last minute, the FNV Cabine union, which represents around 30% of the airline’s cabin crew halted a walkout so it could assess a new proposal made by KLM.
Both FNV Cabine and the much larger cabin crew union, VNC have been locked in talks with KLM over the last few weeks in last-ditch efforts to hammer out a deal that both sides will be happy with.
Relations between the union and company sides reached a new low recently when KLM announced plans for a profit sharing scheme which wouldn’t include its cabin crew employees. Since then, both unions have redoubled efforts to push back against the airline’s cost-cutting plans and improve conditions for its members.
In statements to its members, FNV Cabine had been making its case for a one-day stoppage – arguing that it was the only way to make KLM listen to their demands. However, VNC has sought a more conciliatory approach, refusing to join the proposed strike and instead seeking mediation with KLM.
When we approached VNC last week, a spokesperson said they didn’t want to publicly comment as they were busy “negotiating” with KLM management. Now, we’ve learnt the details of a proposed settlement which could bring the dispute to an end.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks between the unions and KLM has been the airline’s decision to remove one cabin attendant from certain long-haul flights – the controversial ‘-1CA’ policy. Cabin crew say the policy is unworkable and has increased their workload to unrealistic levels – both the VNC and FNV have said the reversal of this policy is a prerequisite to a settlement.
In a statement to members, VNC has announced plans by KLM to phase out the -1CA policy starting in July. By winter 2018, all KLM services should no longer be working with a cabin attendant down.
However, while FNV Cabine is broadly supportive of the proposals, they’ve warned KLM is trying to introduce ‘-1CA 2.0’ with senior pursers now likely to take the brunt of cost-cutting measures.
Elsewhere, both unions are recommending the improved terms and conditions. These include:
- A pay rise of 3.5% by June 2019 – 1% from 1st January 2018, 1.5% from 1st November 2018 and 1% by February 2019
- All Boeing 737 aircraft will operate with at least four members of cabin crew – 1 purser and 3 cabin attendants
- A ‘working pressure reduction’ – although details on this are still sketchy
- An increase in ‘Superjoker’ days from 2 to 4 (guaranteed days off that a flight attendant can book off with at least 3 months notice)
KLM has also promised to include its cabin crew in the profit sharing scheme and will retroactively apply it from January 2016. Finally, there’s even an option for up to 250 cabin crew to enter a voluntary redundancy scheme.
For now, it’s not yet clear whether KLM’s cabin crew will accept the proposals. VNC has said it will recommend the deal, while FNV Cabine is still to review all the paperwork before it makes a recommendation to its members.
We’ll keep you updated on all the latest developments.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.