Germany's pilots' union has held its 13th strike since May 2014, forcing thousands of passengers to cancel or change their travel plans. After the Frankfurt Labour Court confirmed that the strike was lawful, it affected the result of Case 9 SaGa 1082/15 at the Hessen Regional Labour Court.
The dispute involved the 'Wings project', through which Lufthansa intends to establish a low-cost carrier in an attempt to remain competitive. Lufthansa pilots expect to be paid less when serving on the new Wings airlines.
According to a press release, the court held that, as well as its stated target, the strike was also about co-determination regarding the Wings project. The union had always argued that the strike was not targeted at the Wings project, although this appeared obvious to the general public. However, co-determination with regard to the Wings project was not a goal that could be regulated in a collective bargaining procedure by the union. According to the court, the strike was unlawful for this reason. In order for a strike to be lawful, it must target goals that can be regulated by collective bargaining.
Union may be held liable
Lufthansa could potentially hold the union liable for the strike's economic consequences and demand compensation. For now, however, the pilots are obliged to keep flying. Possible compensation claims are also likely to increase the potential for conflict. Further escalation in the dispute appears inevitable.
The judgment was surprising, but it sends out the right signals. The regional labour court made a courageous but correct decision because, on this occasion, the union overshot its target in triggering the dispute and pursuing goals which were not covered by the freedom of association guaranteed under constitutional law. A strike cannot be aimed at preventing an entrepreneurial decision.
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