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At Lufthansa and Co.

Short time work means existential cuts for cabin crews

Flight attendants not only have to make do with less fixed wages during the Corona crisis. They also lose other payments as examples from Austria, Germany and Switzerland show.

Lufthansa/Oliver Roesler

Flight attendant at Lufthansa: Bonuses are cut as well.

Passenger traffic has almost come to a standstill due to the Corona pandemic. Therefore, flight attendants are hardly needed. Most of them are on short-time work. They receive short-time work compensation from the state – 60 percent of their lost net wages or 67 percent if they have children. Some airlines are even willing to pay a little more.

The Lufthansa Group, for example, has announced that it will increase the short-time working allowance for cabin crew «to up to 90 percent». However, not all airlines in the group reach the 90 percent. Sun Express, for example, only pays 15 percent in addition to the state share.

Career starters particularly affected
However, even an increase to 90 percent does not mean that flight attendants will have only 10 percent less money in their pockets at the end of the month. Because variable salary components are also eliminated. «These include, for example, overflight hours, shift bonuses for late and night shifts, and expenses,» explains Daniel Flohr, member of the board of the German cabin crew union Ufo.

«I estimate that employees will receive a total of between 20 and 30 percent less money if they are on short-time work – despite the employer’s top-up,» says Flohr, referring to the German airlines in the Lufthansa Group. This is particularly difficult for career starters, who earn little anyway. «At Sun Express, a newcomer only receives around 19,000 euros gross salary per year,» says the trade unionist.

Negotiations on hardship funds
How hard this affects the employees, however, also depends on the individual case.«We have colleagues who receive 90 percent short-time work compensation, but have, for example, an independent spouse who currently earns nothing,» says Flohr. «They have problems paying their rent.» UFO is still negotiating with Lufthansa about a hardship fund.

Condor already has a corresponding fund, says the trade unionist. The financially stricken holiday airline, however, cannot cope with a blanket increase in short-time work compensation. German Airways and Tuifly are not increasing their payments either.

Higher percentages in Switzerland
The situation is currently better in Switzerland. Employees in short-time work receive 80 percent of their lost wages from the state. In April and May, the Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss is topping this up to 95 per cent of gross wages for cabin crews. In addition, the remaining 5 percent will be paid in arrears until December. However, the Kapers cabin crew union expects «that a new arrangement will have to be found for the following months after June 2020 and that there will be major wage losses,» said a Kapers spokesman. Swiss boss Thomas Klühr has already announced in an internal video that it will not be possible to increase wages after June.

In addition, the loss of expenses, in-flight sales and additional flight services is already considerable, the spokesman said. The amount of money lost by cabin staff as a result varies greatly – roughly between 100 and 700 francs (95 and 665 euros) per month.

«Expenses often vital»
This is particularly problematic for employees in the lower salary brackets, i.e. between 3400 and 4000 francs (3230 and 3800 euros) gross.«For these, the expenses are often vital,» said the spokesman. «For hardship cases, there is a contact point on the Swiss side».

A spokesperson for the Austrian trade union Vida also explains that job starters and single parents are among those who suffer most from the losses of short-time work. For Austrian Airlines, he calculates: «A newcomer to the industry normally receives 1810 euros net for full-time work, already including a variable salary component of 420 euros net.» In short-time work, these employees currently receive only 1224 euros net.

What remains for experienced employees
Vida also explains what happens to employees with more experience and merit.«After ten years in a management position, a flight attendant receives a total of 2390 euros net, including 480 euros net of variable salary components,» says the union spokesperson. Currently only 1528 euros remain during short-time work.

 

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