In a display of unity, approximately 700 employees gathered in front of Cargolux’s headquarters at the Sandweiler roundabout.
They stood firmly in support of the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LCGB) and the Independent Luxembourg Trade Union Confederation (OGBL), distinguished by their green and red safety vests, respectively.
The underlying issue has been brewing for over a year, involving 27 rounds of collective bargaining, five meetings with the National Conciliation Office (ONC), and yet, no mutually agreeable resolution.
The strike action started with the 6 o’clock shift, with 120 mechanics participating, resulting in 11 planes being grounded. Globally, an estimated two dozen Cargolux planes are affected, incurring a staggering cost of $25,000 per hour per plane.
Trade union representatives assert that the management is not taking them seriously.
They deem their demand for a 6% increase over six years reasonable, especially when juxtaposed with the company’s previous wage adjustments during less prosperous times. The trade unions also highlight a period from 2003 to 2019 when staff received barely any wage increases.
The trade unions argue that the recent high bonuses for staff highlighted by the management could not be compared to their demands, as these bonuses are not a fixed component of the salary structure.
Paul de Araujo of the LCGB voiced his concerns, stating, “given the forthcoming investments, it remains uncertain whether additional bonuses can be distributed under profit-sharing.
A linear salary increase is the only sustainable assurance for workers. The CEO’s assertion that a 6% salary hike is unrealistic and lacks long-term viability appears to reflect a lack of comprehension or willingness to understand.”
Michèle Clees from the OGBL also expressed her dismay at the management’s stance, saying, “it is truly disheartening to stand here after a year and a half of negotiations, particularly within a financially robust company with state shareholders. It is, essentially, a disgrace.”
The trade unions contend that the strike could have been averted with different management decisions. Some of the speeches during the gathering were delivered in English, given the presence of the company’s management at the headquarters. The financial implications of the strike are expected to be substantial.
The timing of the strike on a Thursday is not coincidental, as Thursdays see a substantial influx of planes from Asia at Findel Airport. Notably, one flight managed to depart from Findel, and for good reason: it was transporting horses.
Management officials, on Wednesday, contested the demands as excessive, emphasising that employees had received substantial and exceptional bonuses in the preceding three years. They deemed the call for a 6% wage increase over four years as “unreasonable.”
In response, the OGBL and LCGB argue that wage increases in other countries surpass these figures by a significant margin, and the sizeable bonuses disclosed on Wednesday could not be equated with wage increases.
Cargolux CEO Richard Forson expressed his regret over the potential harm a strike could inflict on the cargo airline. The trade unions say the CEO has only himself to blame by not responding to their demands.
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