A few days ago we revealed that a union which represents 20,000 flight attendants at Lufthansa might be prepared to announce a strike on the 14th October – the problem, is that Lufthansa has challenged the legitimacy of the union and claims it has no right to call a strike or even represent the airline’s flight attendants. Both sides have taken their cases to court with varying degrees of success.
The latest legal challenge launched by Lufthansa in the Frankfurt Labor Court was won by their opponent – the Independent Flight Attendants Association (UFO). Lufthansa had wanted the court to rule that a collective labour agreement that details the pay and working conditions of flight attendants had not been ‘terminated’ when it lapsed in June.
If Lufthansa had managed to convince the court of its argument then the UFO wouldn’t be allowed to contend the agreement or call a strike. Unfortunately, for Lufthansa at least, the court dismissed the airline’s argument – which paves the way for the union to call a strike as part of a dispute to win better pay and working conditions.
Not that this means the legal arguments are even close to being finished. Lufthansa doesn’t even think the union has the legal right to represent its flight attendants and earlier this year launched a separate legal case to get a ruling to that effect. That particular court case isn’t likely to be heard until April 2020 at the earliest.
In a leaked internal memo, the airline told its flight attendants (translated to English) that it believes “the UFO in its present state is neither authorized to represent nor a collective bargaining union.”
“Therefore, today’s decision on the situation at that time gives no indication of the current situation (…). We ask the question whether the UFO currently meets the characteristics of a union, in a so-called status case before the Hessian State Labor Court review. The first hearing in this case was scheduled for April 30, 2020.”
Lufthansa has told staffers that it will refuse to meet with the UFO and negotiate on a new collective bargaining agreement until the court case has been concluded.
For its part, the union says it is fully functioning and that recent successes, like having finalised a collective labour agreement for flight attendants at Condor, prove that it has the legitimacy to represent Lufthansa’s flight attendants.
The union has, however, been dogged by a number of allegations over the last year which includes accusations of fraud and nepotism which forced the departure of former chief Nicoley Baublies. A criminal inquiry has since been abandoned.
“Perhaps after a strike, the readiness (to negotiate) increases when Carsten Spohr has to explain to the shareholders and the customers that their flight cancellations and the associated damage to Lufthansa only arise because LH has not wanted to negotiate with the UFO for a year,” Baublies said in response to the recent court ruling.