German flag-carrier Lufthansa has made an embarrassing u-turn and finally agreed to restart negotiations with the Independent Flight Attendants Association (UFO). The airline attempted to face down a 48-hour strike by cabin crew last week but eventually had to cancel 1,300 flights with 180,000 passengers stranded after a German court refused the airline’s application for an emergency injunction against the walkout.
With the union threatening further strikes, including at subsidiary airlines such as Eurowings and Lufthansa CityLine, senior Lufthansa executives finally agreed to secretive talks with flight attendants representatives. The talks are said to have continued throughout the weekend after some common ground was found between the two sides.
Today, Lufthansa and the UFO were able to release a joint statement with positive news that had come from those talks.
“The confidential talks with UFO have shown that we can find a solution together,” explained Bettina Volkens, the head of Human Resources at the airline group.
Over the coming weeks and months, the airline and union will enter into arbitration which will be overseen by independent meditators. During this process, the UFO has agreed not to call any further strikes. For its part, Lufthansa has decided to reopen collective bargaining negotiations, as well as looking at a whole raft of other issues that have infuriated flight attendants over the last months.
The airline has also decided to withdraw controversial court proceedings that aimed to strip the UFO of its right to be considered a trade union and represent flight attendants.
“Arbitration is the right way to address the pressing concerns of our employees in the cabin with all parties involved and to restore trust. It is good news for our customers that now there will be no more strikes at Lufthansa,” Volkens continued.
For the UFO, chief executive Sylvia De la Cruz said: “Of course, we don’t have only collective bargaining problems, there are also other issues that need to be clarified urgently.”
But the union’s chief spokesperson Nicoley Baublies warned that “trust had been destroyed” and said much still rested on how Lufthansa responded to the arbitration process. Unfortunately, the subsidiary airlines do not currently form part of the mediation process but Lufthansa has signalled it will be willing to look at the issues facing flight attendants at these airlines in due course.
For months now, Lufthansa has refused to accept the very existence of the UFO and has point blank refused to negotiate with the union. It took a 48-hour strike and the backing of the German legal system to finally get the airline’s CEO Carsten Spohr to reach out and try to find a solution.
A joint press conference with further details about the arbitration process and temporary settlement is expected to take place on Thursday.