Aviation tripartite

Luxair staff protest; pay freeze to be lifted

On Monday morning around 800 members of the OBGL, LCGB and NGL-SNEP labour unions representing Luxair staff demonstrated to voice their discontent at working conditions and pay. The tripartite has agreed that the wage freeze in place since the pandemic started will be lifted as of January 2023.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the cargo centre has experienced an increase in activity to the extent that employees have been confronted with an overload of work resulting in poor working conditions,” the LCBG union’s Paul de Araujo told the crowds gathered outside the transport ministry on Monday morning.

Along with the OGBL and the NGL-SNEP, the LCGB has been demanding the re-establishment of social dialogue at all levels, better working conditions and a lighter workload in all services, an immediate end to the use of partial unemployment, a sustainable solution to secure the future of employees, and the end of the wage freeze. 

“Passenger transport, flight and ground staff have been facing daily demands for flexibility for several months now and are currently experiencing unprecedented levels of work overload and fatigue,” he added. 

Citing Luxair’s “deficient internal organisation that is too often motivated by a will to reduce costs at any cost,” as well as a push of legal limits in terms of workers’ rights, the trade union’s general secretary called the treatment of staff unacceptable. 

Some of the unions’ demands appear to have been met, as transport minister François Bausch told the media after the tripartite that an agreement had been reached to end short-term unemployment. The wage freeze will also be lifted next year. Whether that is enough to appease staff remains to be seen.  Talks had been constructive, all sides agreed. 

Mediator Robert Biever, the former attorney general, will be convening a meeting between management and staff representatives on Monday afternoon.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Luxembourg’s national airline had been struggling as planes were grounded, resorting to partial unemployment. According to the latest figures provided by CEO Gilles Feith, the company is 20% below passenger numbers compared to 2019 on the airline, but 20% ahead in its LuxairTours package holiday arm. The airline lost €154.9m in 2020 (compared to a net result of €8m in 2019). Passenger numbers had fallen by 69.3% to 658,000. In 2021, it still recorded a net loss, albeit smaller, of €2.3 million, and carried 1.08 million passengers, almost half the number in 2019.

In 2019, the operating result was €-8.7m. In 2020 it had fallen to €-159.8m and in 2021 to €-33.7m. "This year we had a dividend of €70m, so we should have a positive net result,” Feith predicts. The company can rely on the good results of Cargolux, in which it has a 35.1% stake.