By Shane McGinley
Carsten Spohr makes quip about Qatar Airway chief as he faces more opposition from German pilots unions over pay and conditions
Lufthansa’s latest offer to German pilots has been rejected by their unions this week, but the flag carrier’s CEO has joked in an exclusive interview with Arabian Business that his back-up plan may be to hire outspoken Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker as his union advisor.
The German pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) on Wednesday rejected an offer by Lufthansa to hold off from shrinking the fleet at budget carrier Germanwings in exchange for concessions.
According to a letter seen by Reuters, Lufthansa told VC it would stick with 59 aircraft at Germanwings until the end of 2020 if it could make costs at the carrier "competitive for the long run".
Germany’s flag carrier Lufthansa is under pressure to cut costs to compete with low-cost rivals such as Ryanair and easyJet, and Middle East-based carriers including Emirates.
Pilots went on strike 10 times in 2014 in a row over early retirement benefits, which reportedly cost German carrier around 232 million euros last year.
“To the staff of Lufthansa, I never go without saying this is a core asset for any airline,” Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told Arabian Business in an interview in Dubai.
“Does it require restructuring in some parts of the business? In my pilot strikes yes it does. But even with the resistance there is, for the future sustainability we have to overcome that resistance to make the success story work in the future.”
A well-known outspoken opponent of trade unions is Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who two years ago riled international union bosses when he said they were partly to blame for the stagnant growth and unemployment problems faced by the western world during the global economic crisis.
“If you did not have unions you wouldn’t have this jobless problem in the western world… It is caused by unions making companies and institutions uncompetitive and bringing them to a position of not being efficient,” Al Baker told Arabian Business in an interview.
“If you go and ask the politicians in most of the countries in the western world they would love to have the system we have: where the workers have rights through the law but they do not have rights through striking and undermining successful institutions that provide jobs to their knees,” he added.
When Al Baker’s views are pointed out to Spohr, he jokes he may look to the Qatar boss for advice during his current predicament.
“We want to go back to the negotiating table to have constructive discussions and if that doesn’t work my backup plan is to hire Akbar as my union advisor,” he laughs.
The full exclusive one-to-one interview with Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr will be published by Arabian Business on Sunday, March 15.
No mr. Al Baker, workers rights are not worth very much if they are available only by grant of a king, a sheikh or a president.
And unions are very worthwhile institutions, when it comes to fair participation of employees in the revenue and wealth that was created by their hands and their wit.
It's the absence of unions that results in young Asian workers dying in the Gulfstates due to circomstances that can well be controlled. And it's that very same absence of unions that causes staff to work unpaid overtime, to be too scared to go to see a doctor when they are sick.
You are certanly not the man to advise a Company that does respect workers rights even though it isn't always easy for them!