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A group of unions who represent Lufthansa employees have written to the president of the European Commission and its competition regulator to demand that no conditions are placed on a €9 billion bailout negotiated between Lufthansa and the German government. In return for allowing the bailout to proceed, European antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager has said that the “disturbance of competition” will have to be remedied.
It’s understood that Vestager has asked Lufthansa to permanently give up sought after takeoff slots at its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich in order to level the playing field with airlines who aren’t benefiting from government subsidies on such a massive scale. The proposed conditions led to the Lufthansa Supervisory Board rejecting the bailout proposal at the last minute on Wednesday while they plan their next move.
If Lufthansa’s management team can’t find a solution to the current impasse, workers representatives fear hundreds of thousands of jobs could be at risk. “Do not risk our chance by massive restrictions,” wrote the unions in their letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Vestager.
“Neither employees of the Lufthansa Group nor the citizens of Europe will understand if tens of thousands of jobs are lost not because of Covid-19, but because of conditions imposed by the EU Commission,” the letter continued.
Responding to criticism levelled at the proposed bailout package by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, the unions countered that some low-cost airlines had built up large financial reserves to weather the COVID-19 storm from disregarding the rights of their employees.
“If the Lufthansa Group had to give up slots to such airlines (budget airlines), you, Mrs von der Leyen, and you, Mrs Vestager, would be responsible on behalf of the EU for even more intensive social dumping, increasing bogus self-employment and a massive erosion of labour standards.”
O’Leary has described Lufthansa as a “subsidy junkie” over its bid for a multi-billion Euro bailout from the German government. Some European airlines including Air France-KLM and Alitalia have already received similar-sized bailouts from their respective governments. Other airlines, including the likes of easyJet, British Airways and Ryanair have made use of smaller financial aid packages designed specifically to deal with the Corona crisis.
“Carsten Spohr (Lufthansa’s chief executive) has played a blinder during the COVID-19 crisis. He is probably the first man in history to demand €9bn from Mrs Merkel, then tell her to ‘buzz off’ when she wants Board seats and slot remedies,” O’Leary said of the current dispute.
Vestager, meanwhile, told reporters at a press conference on Friday that she was “not creating extra hurdles” for Lufthansa but that her plan to take takeoff slots would “remedy disturbance of competition”.
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