Consolidation in the German market - Air Berlin, dba and LTU

The recent changes in the German aviation sector, driven by Air Berlin plc, will have an impact both on the German and the European market. With Air Berlin not being particularly open towards trade unions, these developments also create a set of new challenges for pilots and their representative body, Vereinigung Cockpit (VC).

The starting point is the buyer of both dba and LTU - Air Berlin. The management of Air Berlin has been resistant to the establishment of organised union representation at the airline. Despite the successful industrial work of VC in the recent years we have not been able to establish a collective agreement with Air Berlin. As a consequence we have not been able to establish a pilots' works council at Air Berlin or industrial representation of Air Berlin pilots through a bargaining commission as an accepted industrial partner. However, in July 2006 we were able to establish a bargaining commission of Air Berlin pilots willing to start the process of VC recognition at Air Berlin.

In contrast to the situation at Air Berlin, both pilots' works councils and pilots' bargaining commissions exist at dba and LTU. So when Air Berlin started its shopping spree with dba in August 2006 and then continued it in March of this year with LTU, VC was in a good starting position for negotiations.

In talks on dba, we were at first confronted with various doomsday scenarios, such as the closure of dba should the demands of Air Berlin not be met. Even though this stance is to be expected and almost ritualistic, the possibility of the cancellation of our industrial agreements through possible mergers of the two companies with Air Berlin remains a concern. Under those circumstances our existing contracts would end after a year, leaving the possibility of a long haul operation without collective representation.

To get a feeling for how far our members would want us to go at dba, as a first step we asked our members to ballot for strike action. 91% of our members participated and of those 98% voted for immediate strike action. Even though the result was so overwhelmingly positive, we have so far not chosen strike action as an option. We want to exhaust all other possibilities first.

At LTU, the bargaining commission is due to begin talks on salary and working conditions, with securing guarantees on the future and planned growth of LTU a key negotiation topic.

Following the purchase of LTU by Air Berlin, we now regard it as advisable to find a solution for the whole Air Berlin Group. We signalled our willingness for negotiations and are awaiting a response from the management, we will keep ECA updated about future developments.

As the newest development at VC we can announce the foundation of an Air Berlin Group Bargaining Commission consisting of representatives from Air Berlin, dba and LTU.

Michael Tarp, Board Member and Head of the Industrial Department of VC