Employees and supporters gather at Findel airport as part of a strike on 14 September (and which continues on 15 September). The unions are asking for a 6% pay raise and a new pay scale. Photo: Jeremy Zabatta/Maison Moderne

Employees and supporters gather at Findel airport as part of a strike on 14 September (and which continues on 15 September). The unions are asking for a 6% pay raise and a new pay scale. Photo: Jeremy Zabatta/Maison Moderne

An estimated 700 employees and supporters gathered outside Cargolux on Thursday 14 September for a rare strike. No Cargolux flights are scheduled to leave on Friday 15 September, as the strike is continuing. At €25,000 for a “lost” flight hour, the impasse has already become costly.

After more than a year of negotiations on a pay rise, protection against a possible cap on wage indexation, a new pay scale and improved rules on teleworking, the LCGB and OGBL unions, after consulting with their members, have taken action.

“Planes will be grounded,” said OGBL central secretary Michelle Cloos, who is responsible for the aircraft sector.

LCGB trade union secretary Paul de Araujo added: “In Luxembourg, a walkout is not a common occurrence. And we did everything we could to avoid this strike action.” He cited 27 negotiation meetings and five meetings at the national conciliation office, none of which resulted in an agreement. On 11 September, a “last chance meeting” between Cargolux management and the unions also failed to satisfy both parties.

Union demands

The two unions are united in their demands. “We’re asking for a pay rise of around 6%,” said Cloos, central secretary of the OGBL. “In our view, this is not excessive considering Cargolux’s recent results and bearing in mind that, for years, when Cargolux was in difficulty, we also made efforts.”

De Araujo added: “Look at what’s being done in the aviation sectors of other countries: the demands are increases of around 15% to 17%. We have a system of wage indexation that enables us to combat inflation to some extent. During the negotiations, management proposed a 4% increase. So we’re still 2% short.”

Other stumbling blocks include the pay scale. “We want a new pay scale,” de Araujo continued, “that will make the company more attractive on the job market in a sector where we know there is strong competition between players. For the moment, the current pay scale is a patchwork.”

When Cloos pointed out the “recent results” of the cargo airline, she was referring to several strong years: the company recorded , following and . These numbers are higher than earlier results: €20m (2019) and--at the time a record--€211.2m (2018).

Cargolux rebuttal

Cargolux CEO responded by pointing out that, “over the last three years, Cargolux has paid each employee, regardless of individual performance, a bonus of €198,744.” In detail, Forson explained, this profit-sharing breaks down to €37,502 in 2020, €75,946 in 2021 and €85,296 last year.

Forson said that he understands that pointing the finger at management is easy, in view of Cargolux’s recent record results. But the CEO also defended himself by explaining his medium- and long-term vision, which aims at stability for the company, commenting: “The unions want to use cash reserves to pay their members in the form of additional permanent benefits and unreasonable demands for pay rises, in addition to profit-sharing.”

He also explained that the company’s good financial results over the past three years, which came as a result of the pandemic, made it possible to launch a fleet renewal programme, with an freighters and an option for six additional aircraft. “This will strengthen the airline’s resilience in the face of volatility in the freight sector, while at the same time improving job security.”

On pay negotiations, the Cargolux CEO stated that he had proposed a 5% increase over five years (the unions had demanded 6% over four years), as well as a guarantee to compensate for a cap on wage indexation if this were to occur, provided that the company had at least €200m in cash in the bank.

Finally, he said that he has also proposed a different pay scale from that suggested by the unions, one that is “fairer” for all employees.

Union rebuttal

Fewer than 15 minutes after the Cargolux CEO presented his figures, the unions responded. “Contrary to what [Forson] says, a pay increase of 5% over five years has never been officially submitted, and the unions are refusing this attempt at negotiation in the public arena,” they said. “The last proposal from Cargolux was for 4% over five years,” the LCGB specified.

The unions then made counter-arguments concerning the bonuses of nearly €200,000 per employee (over the last three years).

“The 6% pay rise demanded by the unions cannot be linked to the company’s profit-sharing bonus,” the unions stated. “On one hand, this bonus depends on the net result the company managed to achieve over the course of a year. On the other, the profit-sharing bonuses paid for 2020, 2021 and 2022 are the result of an exceptional situation and record results due to the pandemic and do not constitute a lasting achievement. That said, the amounts of profit-sharing bonuses paid in 2006, 2010 and 2018 were significantly lower than the amount paid over the last three years in connection with the pandemic. In view of the investments planned for the renewal of the Cargolux fleet, the payment of such a bonus for the coming years becomes much more unlikely and therefore does not constitute a sustainable improvement in salaries, unlike a salary increase.”

The LCGB and the OGBL maintained their position, saying: “Our demands are reasonable.”

Cloos added: “If Cargolux management changes their mind, they can contact us.”

The strike begins

“Attractive jobs for an attractive Cargolux: this is the sole reason for the employee strike, which begins tomorrow morning,” said the unions on 13 September.

Forson had this to say: “A strike will damage Cargolux’s reputation and its relations with customers. It will also have a financial impact, but that doesn’t seem to be important to the unions.”

As no capitulation was forthcoming, the strike went ahead: at 6:00am on 14 September, airline emlpoyees and LCGB and OGBL supporters gathered at the Cargolux entrance at the Findel airport. With tents, a stage for speeches and barbecue supplies, the strikers set up shop with the intention of holding out for several days.

“Pointing to bonuses and the figure of €200,000 in an attempt to discredit our demands is really manipulative,” commented several strikers. “The aim was to point the finger at us, but above all it has strengthened our resolve to take part in this strike action.”

One union official added: “A day’s strike costs management as much as the 6% pay rise we are asking for.”

The cost of grounding a Cargolux aircraft is €25,000 per hour of flight time. At least that’s the figure that was circulating among the strikers outside the airline’s headquarters.

“We have no intention of singling out those who want to work, or even of blocking access,” said the LCGB’s Araujo, referring to the fact that the strikers, though protesting, were not actually stopping anybody from getting to the head office.


According to the unions, some 700 people gathered for the strike at 6:00am. By midday, again according to the unions, 12 of Cargolux’s fleet of 30 aircraft had not taken off, including four at Findel, two in Baku (Azerbaijan) and one each in Chicago and Houston (USA), Dubai and Hong Kong.

“The maintenance and logistics departments have also followed suit,” said Cloos, meaning that they have joined the pilots in the industrial action.

“The planes that are flying are flown by pilots who are part of the management team,” the unions said. On the morning of 14 September, two Cargolux aircraft took off from Findel, one bound for Bahrain and the other for Mexico. “One of those planes was transporting horses,” said Cloos. In the afternoon, according to Flightradar24, three other Cargolux aircraft took off from Findel.

Cargolux management had no comment to make. The company merely confirmed that it had observed employees on strike, while highlighting its latest offer as part of previous negotiations with the unions.

“At 8:00pm on Wednesday evening, we received the proposal that management had presented a little earlier to the press,” said Araujo, adding: “But they did not ask us to enter into new negotiations. The attitude of the director of Cargolux is irresponsible and astonishing.”

It should be noted that the Luxair division of the Luxembourg Air Line Pilots Association (ALPL) has declared its full solidarity with the “legitimate and justified demands of the entire Cargolux workforce.”

“Once again, we have done everything in our power over the past year to avoid this action,” said OGBL president , present among the strikers alongside her LCGB counterpart Patrick Dury. “We have a tradition of social dialogue, but the management of Cargolux, a state-owned company, left us no choice. Going on strike is a difficult decision. It costs employees money and also requires physical and mental effort.”

Day two

No Cargolux flights will be departing from Luxembourg on Friday 15 September, according to the airline’s website, due to the continuing strike.

The unions have confirmed to Delano’s sister publication Paperjam that they are striking on 15 September, as management has not contacted them. According to them, the entire fleet is grounded.

This article is an edited and translated compilation of four articles originally published in Paperjam. Find the original articles (in French) , , and .