Allegations of nepotism and fraud have rocked Germany’s largest cabin crew union, the Independent Flight Attendant Organisation (UFO) leading to resignations and calls for a criminal inquiry. The turmoil comes at a particularly crucial point for thousands of flight attendants at Lufthansa.
The German flag carrier has imposed a number of detrimental cost-cutting initiatives in recent months, including the decision to cut layover periods on ultra-long-haul flights to Asia to just 24-hours.
In a personal statement on the official UFO website yesterday afternoon, the union’s Director Nicoley Baublies said he was stepping down after members “demanded” his resignation. Baublies admitted being responsible for some of the internal conflicts that have called the very existence of the union in doubt and has left it powerless in negotiations with Lufthansa.
Baublies had previously tried to rescind the current Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) that governs the working conditions for cabin crew at Germany’s largest airline. The plan was to force Lufthansa into negotiations and stop recently implemented cost-cutting initiatives.
Lufthansa refused to accept the UFO’s demands and questioned whether the union had any legitimacy. As the dispute has rumbled on, Lufthansa has rejected calls to negotiate with the union. An attempt from the UFO to gain a restraining order against Lufthansa spectacularly backfired.
The current CLA will expire at the end of June, meaning that Lufthansa will be able to impose conditions as they see fit. The union has already signalled that it will call for strike action if this happens.
But the UFO’s leadership has been more concerned with a scandal that has consumed the union. Prosecutors recently raided the UFO’s offices in a high-profile fraud probe. It’s alleged that union officials used UFO credit cards to pay for personal travel and expenses, while other allegations suggest generous employment contracts were offered to friends and relatives of high-ranking officials.
Along with the resignation of Baublies, other high-ranking officials have already been forced to step down.
Lufthansa has been trying to reduce costs by cutting back the working conditions of flight attendants. As well as reducing layover periods, the airline has reduced bonus payments while also increasing crew responsibilities and workload.
We’ve contacted Lufthansa for comment but had not received a reply at the time of publication.