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Austrian Airlines: Easter strike imminent


Austrian Airlines plane above the clouds
© Austrian Airlines

The threat of a strike at AUA hovers over Easter holidaymakers: hundreds of flights and thousands of passengers could be affected by the cabin crew strike from Maundy Thursday.


The airport's board director, Günther Ofner, has made his rejection unmistakably clear. He described the demands of the Vida union for a salary increase of up to 40 percent as grossly exaggerated. Ofner, who also serves as chairman of the aviation division in the Chamber of Commerce, warned on Sunday that this would jeopardize the economic recovery of the AUA, which has only just emerged from an existential crisis. In addition, he noted that up to 6,200 AUA employees' jobs would be threatened by such drastic demands


Ofner described such demands as “a direct challenge to taxpayers,” since the AUA was only recently saved from bankruptcy with millions in state aid. He warned that the additional costs of such high fares would ultimately lead to an increase in ticket prices, which in turn would burden passengers. Ofner expressed his incomprehension that the AUA works council and the union would endanger the well-deserved Easter holidays of families with school-age children with a strike. In an official statement, he described this as irresponsible and incomprehensible.


Strike decision on the weekend


The threat of a 36-hour strike from midnight on Maundy Thursday to midday on Good Friday now looms over the important Easter travel season. On Friday, the Lufthansa subsidiary and the employee representatives from the union and works council were unable to agree on a new collective agreement. In response, the strike was decided on Saturday, a measure that was forced to take, as explained by the Vida union. AUA management criticized the planned strike during the holiday season as "absolutely irresponsible" towards passengers and as "a shot in the foot" for the workforce.


The demand for a salary increase of up to 40 percent massively endangers both the 6,200 jobs of AUA employees and the competitiveness of the Lufthansa subsidiary, emphasized Ofner and appealed to the common sense of the employee negotiators. A strike does not offer a solution. As already reported, the airline sees up to 430 flight connections at risk due to a possible strike.


An AUA spokeswoman emphasized at the weekend that the escalation measures taken by the works council and the union did not contribute to finding a solution. These measures are disproportionate and passengers do not understand them either. “From our side, we are committed to doing everything we can to enable our passengers to enjoy their Easter holiday.”


Salaries should be brought closer to those of Lufthansa


The union and the works council continue to insist that there must be a “justified alignment of salaries with those of the AUA parent Lufthansa”. They argue that AUA is now in second place within the Lufthansa Group in terms of revenue quality, ahead of Lufthansa itself. Nevertheless, the earning potential of AUA employees is significantly behind those of other group companies such as Eurowings, Discover or Ocean the employee representatives. A pilot at the parent company Lufthansa earns almost twice as much in his twelfth year of service.


The Vida union emphasizes that the offer proposed by the AUA, which envisages an average increase of 18 percent for flying personnel, is merely an adjustment for inflation. In their eyes, this offer is “not valuable” and only plays with numbers. Only a new offer from the company could prevent the strike measures. This was not in sight until Sunday. The request to the AUA to “immediately submit an improved offer,” which was included in the unanimous strike decision, has so far remained unanswered. Daniel Liebhart, representative of the transport and services union Vida, assured that the strike could be averted with a new offer by midnight on March 27th. The union is ready for talks. The strike is scheduled for March 28th at midnight.


Compensations


In fact, flight cancellations like those threatened by the AUA mean that flights will be canceled. According to the Agency for Passenger and Passenger Rights (APF), passengers have various options to choose from. These include refund of the ticket price, return to the first departure point at the earliest possible date or alternative transport on comparable conditions as soon as possible. There is also the possibility of receiving compensation in the form of money. The APF recommends that affected passengers contact the AUA before booking replacement flights and to keep invoices and receipts. It is also advisable to keep costs, for example for overnight stays, as low as possible.


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