Lufthansa still has the equivalent of 10,000 too many full-time employees on its books, according to its CFO, Remco Steenbergen. This is despite the airline’s workforce already shrinking by 24,000 full-time roles since the pandemic began over a year ago.
Almost every airline is continuing to suffer from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some have been able to recall staff, others haven’t been so fortunate. For example, next week, British Airways is set to operate just 7% of its pre-pandemic schedule. Many airlines, British Airways and Lufthansa included, have seen that downsizing is the only long-term solution to cope with the effects of the pandemic on the aviation industry.
10,000 roles too many
Earlier today, while presenting the Lufthansa Group’s first-quarter results, CFO Remco Steenbergen revealed that Lufthansa currently still has a relatively large surplus of employees. According to the airline, it has an excess of 10,000 “full-time equivalent roles”.
But what does this mean? If everybody worked full time, there would be 10,000 too many employees. However, if two individuals worked part-time with 50% of the hours of a full-time employee, they would also add up to a single full-time equivalent role. According to its latest results, as of March 31st, the Lufthansa Group employed 111,262 people. This was down 19% from 136,966 the previous year.
Currently, no more employees will be dismissed due to agreements with unions. Cabin Crew are covered by a UFO union agreement that stops forced dismissals until the end of 2023. Both the VC union representing pilots and ver.di representing ground staff have only signed such agreements until the end of Q1 2022.
However, the executives did suggest that, once the agreements expire, action will need to be taken. CEO Carsten Spohr commented that in the cabin crew and ground staff departments, voluntary programs, natural attrition, and a hiring freeze would bring employee numbers down.
However, it appears that things are different in the cockpit. Spohr explained that “nobody leaves a pilot job at Lufthansa because there’s no better pilot job in the world.”
He added that there were two solutions for the company with the possibility of no job losses depending on the agreements that can be reached with employees,
“In the end, cost-wise it will be the same. Either people have to leave voluntarily or we will keep them on board and they all work less for less money.”
The airline is already making the necessary preparations to remove employees if it becomes necessary. According to Steenbergen, the airline is already completing the required legal processes to be able to force dismissals. This will be concluded by the end of the year, in time for the expiration of current union agreements. However, Spohr feels confident that new agreements will be possible, commenting,
“Of course, they know that [job cuts will be possible]. That’s why I believe there will be constructive dialogue once they have elected a new leadership.”
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