Dutch MPS Suggest KLM Pilots Should Take Pay Cuts

Dutch members of parliament want several additional conditions, including pilots taking a wage cut, before they will sign off on an aid package for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. While reporting on the news today, the NL Times says the GroenLinks (Green Party) wants the airline’s financial partners to contribute to any financial help from the government.

Dutch MPs want KLM pilots to take a wage cut. Photo: Getty Images

Other parties in parliament want to see KLM’s high-earning pilots take a cut in pay and the airlines to stop paying bonuses and dividends so long as it is reliant on state aid.

Splitting up Air France-KLM is also being talked about

Another suggestion GroenLinks came up with was to consider breaking up the Air France-KLM partnership. The pretext is that, rather than working together with the French government to save both companies, just concentrating on KLM could prove to be more viable.

When speaking with Dutch news radio station BNR, and carried by the NL Times, GroenLinks parliamentarian Bart Snels insisted that KLM’s financial partners must also shoulder the burden. The business partners he is talking about include not only banks and financial institutions but oil traders and the companies that lease aircraft to the county’s national flag carrier.

Air France-KLM
Splitting up Air France and KLM is an option being discussed. Photo: Getty Images

“Now they sit back because the government will obviously save its ‘blue pride,” Snels said to German television station RTL. “But if KLM goes bankrupt, they will also lose their money.”

The social-liberal D66 party supports the idea that other companies that have a stake in the airline must contribute to any government aid package. D66 was keen to point out that, while planes were not flying due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the companies leasing planes to KLM were still making money. “We are not supposed to help speculators out of the fire,” said PvdA (Labor Party) MP Henk Nijboer when also speaking to RTL.

Many political parties are calling for pilots to take a pay cut

Regarding KLM pilots taking a pay cut, CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal), ChristenUnie (Christian Union), and SP (Socialist Party) are all in agreement that the pilots must accept a pay cut before the government gives KLM any money. According to RTL, some pilots for the SkyTeam Alliance airline earn more than 200,000 euros per year.

“It feels uncomfortable if the state now guarantees the salaries of high-earning pilots,” CDA MP Erik Ronnes said. MP Eppo Bruins added, “As far as we are concerned, hard demands can be made.” “ChristenUnie does not consider a wage cut unreasonable.”

Mahir Alkaya, of SP, added, “Why should we use public money to fund pilots who earn twice as much as the Prime Minister.”

Netherlands Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra is currently involved in talks with the Amstelveen-headquartered airline about conditions that will be attached to any state aid, including KLM staff taking a wage cut.

KLM pilots union VNV (Vereniging Nederlandse Verkeersvliegers) has said that it wants to discuss options with KLM but also asked for politicians not to interfere in the talks.

Regardless of what the union is saying, the Dutch Socialist Party will bring up the KLM pilot wage issue during a parliamentary debate scheduled for tomorrow, May 7.

KLM premium economy getty images
Some KLM pilots make more the 200,000 euros per year. Photo: Getty Images

For its part, the Green Party (GroenLinks) thinks that splitting up the Air France-KLM holding company should also be something that needs consideration.

Snels said to BNR,

“Now that it is clear how challenging the collaboration is, a split scenario becomes more and more concrete. The French government supports Air France; the Dutch government supports KLM, when in fact it is one company. But in practice and in the way it works, it is a collaboration between two separate companies. Especially now that the market will not recover quickly, it may be even easier to save two separate companies.”

Air France is in slightly worse shape than KLM

The Dutch MP added that while international co-operation is vital, the necessity of keeping Air France and KLM as one company is not.  If they were separate entities,” The Dutch government could focus on the importance of KLM, Schiphol, and the future of Dutch aviation, which is different from saving the holding company. Air France’s financial position is slightly worse than KLM’s, so after a split, it is easier for the Dutch government to make arrangements with commercial parties.”

KLM, Coronavirus face mask
Face masks are now mandatory on all KLM flights. Photo: Getty Images

While top-earning KLM pilots will not want to take a cut in pay, it is hard to imagine they will get any sympathy from the Dutch public.

What do you think about pilots making over 200,000 ($216,000) euros per year? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.