February 23rd, 2010
12:47 AM GMT
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London (CNN) - As I stood outside the fence of Heathrow in the rain, it all looked like business as usual on the runways. I even saw two Lufthansa branded planes land. They told the whole story of the pilot's strike. The strike – which was called off after one day when German courts intervened – involves one of the world's biggest airline, but not all of it.

The two planes that landed at Heathrow were: Lufthansa Italia and Lufthansa Regional. These two arms of the carrier, along with its subsidiaries BMI, Swiss and Austrian all have different, and more importantly, cheaper deals with pilots. Lufthansa's pilots are mad that the German carrier is moving routes to these and other parts of the company to cut costs.

Meanwhile, British Airways planes keep taking off and landing, full of cabin crew who have spent the last month voting on a strike ballot. Of the 80 percent who voted, nearly 81 percent voted to strike.

Though BA's press release noted the carrier's disappointment, it must be said the Union got a more than 90 percent vote last December. Also the union had yet to announce a date or length for this strike. The last one, to be 12 days over Christmas and New Years was blocked by a British Judge.

BA says recent talks have yielded progress. The union agreed but went ahead with the ballot anyway.

BA has said all along it must make the changes to cabin crew pay and conditions to cut costs, with or without the union's help. This vote is not likely to change the mind of CEO Willie Walsh who has told me many times cuts must come to save this airline in the face of tough economic conditions and increased competition from low-cost carriers.

Meanwhile, French air traffic controllers are expected to walk off the job Tuesday. Why? Just like Lufthansa pilots and BA cabin crews, the issues largely boil down to one:  Job security.

Judging from the fears of labor unions, job security is one thing that appears to be taking flight in the airline industry.

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Filed under: Air industry


soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Justin

    How striking against the airline you work for stands to improve your job security is beyond me.

    Put them all out of work.. Thieving punks. I wish the government didn't back labor unions, it's just legalized theft.

    February 23, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  2. Eastern rising

    It's time for the spoiled europeans to think that the only way to secure thier jobs is to stay competitive ( i.g stronger job skills ) and stop all this corporate blackmail nonsense. .

    February 23, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  3. Arjen

    When do airline personnel finally adapt to new economic realities? The only security in the current crisis is a severe reduction in revenues from ticket sales.
    I am commuting weekly between London and Germany, flying alternating with BA or Lufthansa. I used to fly business class but since last year my company changed its policy to cheapest possible economy class. Thereby reducing the income for the airline with 75%. And I am not the only one.
    Of course, I changed my flight yesterday from LH to BA. But to decide who to fly in the next weeks will be difficult with LH's strike suspended and BA's strike threat.

    February 23, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  4. felix sabiniano

    unions are there to protect and make sure you get enough money to bring home at the end of the day. they dont steal they make bargaining deals. maybe you should put your self in their shoes justin and you will know the validity of their issues. you might be a flying passenger and you dont know how hard it is to be a crew. for you they are just servers but in fact they are human with needs too.

    February 23, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  5. Joo

    Justin, I agree. compromise is a part of life, unless you belong to a union . In these times, unions across the world want even more radical handouts.

    February 23, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  6. Anne

    I've visited the US a lot and I always say I'll never fly anywhere on BA. Over here in the UK I think they have more negative publicity than any other airline, yet they try to promote themselves as the best.

    February 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
  7. Brian

    I want to know how much the ceo has cut his pay to save cost. Most Corperations could cut half a dozen VP positions and it would be the same as cutting 50 or more regulars.

    I guess for me, If I was making over 10 Million I know I could scrape by on 5 till things turned around, and if they don't, I wasn't a very good CEO was I, and probablly didn't deserve that much money in the first place.

    I would like to revise Justin's statement:
    Put them all out of work. Theiving punks. I wish the government didn't back fat cats, it's just legalized theft.

    Justin, before you gripe on Unions, take a good look who's pissing on your leg and telling you its rain.

    February 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  8. Fifi

    I totally agree with Justin. I just booked a a flight with BA and should have known better to book with them after the Christmas ruckus

    February 23, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  9. J-C

    Labor union is just the pain of the world, they are not only incompetents but are destroying the world economy. Those on strike, simply put them out of work and replace them with those willing to work. French people are the worst in the world, laziest that them, you cannot find, big talk and nothing behind

    February 23, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  10. Onetwo

    It's nice to see the European pilots fight for their rights, unlike the Americans who get paid less than factory workers these days...

    February 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  11. Jim

    Justin,

    I guess you believe in the good will of management to take care of it employees. I think a lot of Enron folks thought the same thing.

    Jim

    February 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  12. Bernard

    Although strikes are regretteble and very unpleasant they are esential to the stabilety of the social balance in Europe. And are of vital importance to the rights of the working man in a way (most) Amaricans can't or don't want to understand. The right to strike is regarded as a vital and basic right in Europe as it is the only way that the workers can presure there employers and thus demand fair treatment.

    February 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  13. curious steve

    when the airline workers struck, i didn't care as i wasn't one of them.

    when the ups workers struck, i didn't care as i wasn't one of them.

    .......

    when i struck, no one cared, as they weren't me.

    February 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  14. WorkerBee

    Thieving corporate goons, Bonuses and Golden parachutes at workers expense.

    Strike! Strike! Strike!

    A worker bee.

    February 23, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  15. GS

    The fact is that the general public rarely hear about all the events that lead to a strike. A strike is only used as a last resort, generally after months or years of negotiations. Iberia pilots went TEN YEARS without a contract and saw their jobs being outsourced to subsidiaries for years before threatening a walk-out, which finally led to reaching an agreement with management. Things are no different at LH/AA/QF/you name it. Airlines all over the world are faced with outrageous costs which are mostly out of their control (fuel being #1), and the easy way to deal with it is to attack labour. Time for some conscious capitalism to take hold in the airline industry as well. Employees (union or not) are important stakeholders, too, and have careers and families like you and I.

    February 24, 2010 at 1:05 am |
  16. Chris

    Felix,

    Unions in theory are an excellent idea. Collective bargaining often does allow for greater deals for workers. However, when the airline's need concession due to macro business forces, their collective bargaining power becomes a massive obstacle.
    Unions are not the problem as they theoretically could facilitate the process of raising/ lowering the cost of airlines in a much more efficient manner than going EE by EE.

    The problem is that union's never concede anything. It's why American autoworkers get paid 3-4x what Toyota workers get paid and drive American car companies into bankruptcy. It's why the Greek public sector works 7 hours a day and retires on tax revenue at the age of 54 (which is ridiculous). It's why there are so many problems with unionized work.

    Union's are great... in theory. awful in practice

    February 26, 2010 at 7:10 am |
  17. Dan

    Chris,
    As a pilot at a major airline don't tell me that we haven't given the company concessions. We have been working under a concessionary contract for years (first year pay around $25K) while the management group continually give themselves multi-million dollar bonuses. As far as US auto workers making 3-4 times what a Toyota worker makes, I think you need to reexamine your figures. The average UAW worker make $28 per hour. Somehow I doubt the Toyota worker makes $7-9 per hour.

    How long will the US public be duped by these corporate criminals? the money is not at the labor level, it is at the top and unless this changes the race to the bottom will continue. Like Brain said, "before you gripe on Unions, take a good look who's pissing on your leg and telling you its rain".

    March 5, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  18. John Tipu

    Think of the environment...

    Keep Striking.

    March 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  19. icon pack

    Like attentively would read, but has not understood

    November 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

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