Lufthansa has described a proposed strike which has been called by the flight attendants union for six hours on Sunday “unlawful” and threatened to take action against any individual who partakes in the action. The Independent Association of Flight Attendants (UFO) announced the strike on Monday in what has become an increasingly bitter dispute which is being fought just as much in the courtroom as it is in the board room.
The UFO is calling on its members to down tools between 6am and 11am on Sunday morning in what German media is describing as a “Diet Strike” – a way not only to test the water but also to give Lufthansa one final attempt to restart contract negotiations with the union. Lufthansa has refused to talk with union officials for months and maintains the UFO is no longer a legitimate union.
“Lufthansa expressly emphasizes that this strike is unlawful, as both the trade union status of the UFO and the power of representation of the UFO executive board remain unclear,” the airline has said in a statement posted to its website.
“It is being examined whether legal action will be taken against the announced strike. Lufthansa’s aim is to be able to maintain the full flight program despite the appeal on 20 October.”
It’s probably worth pointing out that they only reason the trade union status is up in the air is because Lufthansa has started its own legal proceedings against the organisation. The outstanding legal cases being pursued by the airline may take months to complete, although the union won a small victory in the Frankfurt labour court last week.
So far, Lufthansa has decided not to make any schedule changes at its hubs in Munich and Frankfurt where the UFO has called the strikes. Instead, the airline is hoping that most flight attendants will turn up to work as planned and in case of no-shows is planning an army of volunteers to backfill.
According to German-language publication Der Spiegel, the airline has sent a memo to flight attendants warning them that they face individual legal action if they fail to turn up for work. The plan, it is claimed, is to demand damages from flight attendants who take part in the strike action and start possible disciplinary action.
It’s also possible that Lufthansa will attempt to obtain an injunction to put a legal stop to the strike.
The union, though, is desperately trying to convince its members that they have the legal right to strike describing the staff memo as an “illegitimate attempt” to control workers. How much comfort that will give flight attendants scheduled to work on Sunday and wanting to strike remains to be clear.
However, it does look like the UFO is already planning for Sunday’s walkout to be a flop. The union says a poor turnout on Sunday means they need to plan for bigger strikes which will be backed by a formal ballot. If flight attendants vote in favour, the union is already calling for “unlimited strikes” that will start in November.