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Workplace Mediation for Lufthansa, German Airline Workers

Thursday, September, 13, 2012

Management for the German airline Lufthansa will be meeting with union representatives for its cabin workers next week for workplace mediation. This comes after 13 months of negotiations that ended with a rolling strike which cost the airline millions of dollars over 1,000 canceled flights.

Previous Disputes Over Mediation

The union representing the cabin workers' union (UFO for short; the full name is in German) had threatened major strikes last week if Lufthansa management refused to talk on the union's terms. Management was willing to go to mediation, but only about wage increases, and not about other matters--most notably, those related to temporary workers.

The union wanted a guarantee that the airline would not threaten union member jobs via the use of temp workers. Instead, management only wanted to talk about wages, countering union demands of a 5% pay raise, with its own offer of a 3.5% pay raise (in return for longer hours).

A Temporary Resolution in Mediation Services

The airline recently offered several temporary workers full-time contracts. Full-time employment would effective make the workers eligible to be union members and easing the union's concern. The union is now willing to enter into workplace mediation with the Lufthansa airlines.

Union representative Nicoley Baublies stated that the union is now willing to talk because of what it considers the airline's concessions. He said that, while the union could resort to industrial-level action once again (i.e. a large strike action), such maneuvers do not seem necessary for the immediate future.

How Long Does Workplace Mediation Take?

In Germany, it is against the law for a union or other group to strike while engaged in workplace mediation with management (or any other kind of labor-management mediation). Baublies said that the talks would last for at least a month-and-a-half, as "It is unrealistic to think mediation lasts less than six weeks."

There is no word yet on who will facilitate the talks. Rumors have pointed towards such figures as a German constitutional judge, and the former German president, as key figures that will provide mediation services.