Swiss clashes with pilot union over cost cuts

London
Source:
This story is sourced from Pro
See more Pro news »

Swiss is planning to operate its on-order Boeing 777 fleet through its regional arm, after the Alpine carrier was unable to reach a labour agreement with the mainline operation’s pilot union.

Pilots at the wholly owned Lufthansa subsidiary are organised in two separate unions: Aeropers and IPG, which represent the pilots of, respectively, the mainline operation’s fleet of Airbus narrowbodies and widebodies and the Swiss European Air Lines division’s BAE Systems Avro regional jets. Separate labour agreements are in place for the two unions.

Swiss has been negotiating since 2012 with Aeropers and IPG about integration of the two pilot workforces into a single unit and a new, universal labour contract. But while IPG’s members have agreed to the proposal earlier this year, Aeropers members voted against the new collective bargaining agreement, dubbed GAV14.

Now, the airline plans to operate its six 777-300ERs – to be delivered from 2016 to replace some ageing Airbus A340-300s – through the Swiss European Air Lines division, says Aeropers.

The union adds that management also intends to remove “numerous” A319s and A320s from its fleet without replacement. This will mean mainline job cuts “for the benefit of cheaper jobs at Swiss European”, while the regional arm is to undergo “significant” growth, it says.

Aeropers is supporting the integration of the pilot workforce and establishment of a single labour agreement, it says. But the union claims that the deal was broken when management tried to introduce additional cost cuts to the labour contract.

The three parties had agreed about the staff integration and found ways to handle pilot seniority across the combined workforce, establish a new crew base in Geneva, and reduce costs despite the harmonisation of the European unit’s salaries with the more generous mainline pay packages, says Aeropers.

However, the union argues, management wanted to introduce additional cost cuts – such as increased working hours, shorter holidays and less generous pension regulations – to improve the airline’s profitability.

The staff cost reductions were not part of the trilateral discussions until late 2013, says Aeropers.

IPG’s existing labour agreement expires in June, while Aeropers’ collective bargaining deal is valid until at least November 2016.

If Swiss went ahead with its plan to establish GAV14 with IPG alone, it would not be a “sustainable” solution and lead to conflict within the pilot workforce, argues Aeropers.

The latter union’s managing director Henning Hoffmann says employees across the airline have lost trust in its senior management. Alluding to Lufthansa’s cost-cutting programme Score, he says the management strategy “coming from Germany” is based on “pressure and fear” and “is not working in Switzerland”. Hoffmann adds that Swiss’ chief executive Harry Hohmeister – a former Lufthansa manager – “has not understood the mentality of his Swiss employees”.