Freedom News

Greece: Why strikes are hitting Lufthansa

Over the past few years, under the pretext of the so-called crisis, airlines operating in Greece have carried out a series of wage cuts and layoffs. These are the people who pay the price of the antagonism between multinational companies which have almost absolute control of the sector. The working conditions of wage slaves who continue to work in these enterprises are getting worse: longer hours, salary cuts, unpaid overtime, labour intensification, threats of layoffs, precariousness.

Airlines apply what is called in the language of the capitalist market “outsourcing of business processes” — trying to minimise costs. Some services have gone to countries where wages are even lower and working conditions are even worse than those in force in the Greek state. The profit is already spirited away to the economies of western and northern European countries and, of course, those of North America.

The profits of these companies have been growing further since the airports now belong to Private Capital, meaning firms can impose any conditions without any kind of impediment, and therefore to gouge profits from the exploitation of the airports. In the case of the Greek state, two years ago the leftist Syriza government, continuing the neoliberal policy of its predecessors, granted the palming off of 14 airports to German company Fraport. Athens airport meanwhile the largest in the country, was awarded to German company Hotchief, which owes €600 million to the State for VAT fraud.

Since the country’s airports are controlled by (apparently) German Capital, the Lufthansa group’s activity is particularly high in Greece. The Lufthansa airline alliance is called Lufthansa Group and is made up of Lufthansa, Eurowings and Germanwings, Swiss and Edelweiss Air, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines.

In the last three years Lufthansa has repeatedly planned staffing reductions via a “package of voluntary redundancies,” that is to say, compensation to those who voluntarily resign according to the years worked in the company. The company intends to dispose of more than half of its workforce either through this system or through direct dismissals. As the number of voluntary layoffs is currently lower than desired by the company, in the short term Lufthansa will proceed with direct ones.

All this is happening at the same time as profits of almost all airlines operating in Greece are exceeding earnings forecasts (over the last three years). They are the same companies which until recently were proud of their “human face” and several of their workers identified with them, adopting the language and the arguments of the bosses. Now they are threatened to take to the streets.

In particular, in 2015  Lufthansa’s net profits reached €1.7bn, a year-on-year increase of 52.2%. In 2016 net profits increased by 4.6% more, reaching €1.81bn euros. According to the general director of sales in Greece and Cyprus,  in the first quarter of  2017 increased profits further still, achieving ” the best first quarter of the year since 2008.” In the second quarter of 2017 Lufthansa’s profits increased by 69% compared to 2016. Specifically, they reached €740bn while in the second quarter of 2016 it was €437bn. The increases continued in the third quarter of  2017 up by 79% to reach €1.4bn.

In the face of layoffs, blackmail, wage cuts, worsening working conditions, mockery, and the Capital offensive in general, the workers’ union in the air transport sector responded by calling for two four-hour work stoppages at on October  11th and 13th, plus a 24-hour strike on Monday 16th across Lufthansa group firms.

We have already dedicated several posts to the left or left-leaning unions. And we consider that the case of this union and the Lufthansa case in general is a prime example of how hundreds of workers will go to the street, surrendered to bosses (those who reject trade unionism, complacent with the current political and economic system), or having delegated the “struggle” for the defence of their labour rights to a group of experts, adopting a vertical union organisation (those that know and practice the trade unionism of the delegation).

This article is an edited machine translation of an article at Noticas Anarquistas. Any errors, let us know!

Pic: John and Melanie (Flickr CC)

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