When fear & pressure become your daily companion

Inside Laudamotion through the eyes of a pilot

© Adobe Stock/ EdNurg

© Adobe Stock/ EdNurg

Inside laudamotion

Since Ryanair took over Laudamotion the company finds itself in a free fall. The employees fear that the COVID crisis may just become the end of this free fall (and our jobs). And Ryanair is capitalising on our fears. 

© Adobe Stock / Tobias Arhelger

© Adobe Stock / rebius

© Adobe Stock / Tobias Arhelger

© Adobe Stock / rebius

Founded by the former Austrian Formula 1 champion Niki Lauda, the airline had a winner’s heart and wears proudly the Austrian red & white colours.

When Ryanair emerged as a potential buyer, it was hard to imagine how you could reconcile the Lauda values with the Ryanair company morale.

A lot has been written about the ‘enfant terrible’ of the European aviation, so I will not repeat the accusations.

But when Ryanair finally took over Lauda, all that was written turned out to be true. 

They hired lots of rookie pilots and flight attendants, who were promised a direct Laudamotion contract. However, all those newly hired people had to sign a Crewlink contract, excluding them officially from the collective labour agreement, which applied to direct employees. The focus for cabin crew training shifted from safety to sales.

Maintenance irregularities landed Laudamotion on the increased supervision list of Austrocontrol. For pilots, it started with strong-arming us to accept increased flight hours and a new roster pattern within a 14-day deadline.

For pilots, it started with strong-arming us to accept increased flight hours and a new roster pattern within a 14-day deadline.

The threat hanging in the air was a cut of 30 pilot jobs and the replacement of Lauda aircraft with Ryanair ones. This resulted in a collective resignation of the workers’ Company Council and a member of this Council being fired. Months later, Lauda management still does not accept the newly elected workers council.  

And then came the CORONA crisis...

... which our management team took as an opportunity to push for even more cost-saving contracts, demanding for example cabin crew wages below the poverty line in Austria. You can imagine employees and the pressure they are under. The company started terrorising us with almost daily email threats, urging us to sign illegal contracts.

The airline also wanted to lay-off 550 pilots, cabin crew and ground staff but the Austrian employment service rejected this attempt. 

Before that, an application to put staff on short-time work arrangement was rejected by the authorities because Lauda doesn’t recognise an employee-led works council.

But what Ryanair – and now the remote-controlled Lauda – are unmistakably good at is creating big media headlines. So they gained tremendous media attention to make their case (read: threaten to close the Vienna base and fire 300 crew members) and used this to put even more pressure on the union Vida.

"Frankly, it would be cheaper to ground the Airbus aircraft in Vienna and not fly them than it would to continue to fly them with an ineffective and disastrous CLA.”

While the affiliates worked hard on the new CLA and Vida trying to find a solution for a legal CLA, Laudamotion did not stop bashing it in the media and threatening with base closures and job losses.

Finally, a new CLA – with worsened conditions – was agreed between the social partners (in Austria, the union and the Chamber of Commerce are jointly responsible for creating a new collective labour agreement) and became legally valid. This means that no agreement from the individual employees or the company is necessary. 

Little hope remains that the EU and national governments stop looking away from all those troubles

You thought that the story would be finished now? I’m sorry to disappoint you. Laudamotion started sending out mails to their employees instructing them they should again agree to a new set of wishes by the airline – if they wouldn’t do so, their jobs would be lost. Today, we still do not know how and where this path will continue to. Little hope remains that the EU and national governments stop looking away from all those troubles, although at least in Austria the government stepped in to prevent the mass dismissals at Lauda. 

Meanwhile, for Lauda crew, fear and pressure have become our daily companions. This is neither good for the morale and motivation, nor for our ability to safely fly our aircraft and passengers – without having to worry about our job and future. Fear and safety simply don’t mix well !