Unions resist blanket lease agreement. AirBaltic employees earn much less than Swiss employees, so this is considered wage dumping. Politicians are now active and airlines are fighting back.
When airlines themselves have too few aircraft and too few employees, they turn to wet-lease providers. This is usually done to cover peak demand in the summer, but sometimes also when operations require it. And so Swiss knocked on Air Baltic’s door last winter.
The Latvian airline helped its Swiss subsidiary Lufthansa with up to six Airbus A220 aircraft and staff to “continue to stabilize the flight schedule,” “increase security planning for passengers,” but also “reduce the workload of the Swiss cabin crew,” it announced. What was planned as a temporary mission at the time was repeatedly extended. It currently appears that AirBaltic will continue its flights to Switzerland next summer.
“Any contract between SWISS and AirBaltic will be void.”
But Switzerland is now facing harsh winds. Because the flight attendants’ union is attacking the contract with AirBaltic, as the newspaper first did Scenery mentioned. The reason: AirBaltic employees earn much less. They explained that the basic wages of cabin crew are much less than 2,000 euros per month. In Switzerland the minimum is 3,400 francs. There is an accusation of dumping wages.
The union therefore took action and contacted the Zurich Cantonal Employment Office and requested an evaluation. It ruled that there is a joint authority between the leasing company and the operating company. AirBaltic employees have been working from Zurich for several days at a time. They also work on site outside the cabin (which is within the territory of Latvia) and, as is the case with local employees, are equipped with Zurich Airport ID cards. “Since it is not permitted to recruit employees from abroad to Switzerland, any contract between Swiss and AirBaltic will be void,” it concluded.
“Nothing has happened for twelve months.”
“The canton of Zurich must ensure that the Swiss wages are paid, or any contract between the Swiss company and AirBaltic will be declared invalid,” demands Sandrine Nikolic Vos, president of Capers. But Canton Zurich did not move. Thus the flight attendant union, together with the Swiss Confederation of Trade Unions, came to the federal government. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern also found the contract to be sensitive. The clarifications showed that “the contractual regulation for the independent operation of flights to and from Zurich Airport represents a cross-border service provided by AirBaltic on behalf of Swiss.” Therefore, Swiss wages must be paid.
At the same time, politics also gets involved. Three members of the Zurich canton parliament submitted a question to the government last week. “Nothing has happened for twelve months. “Twelve months during which Air Baltic employees are sent to Switzerland, to work for us and provide services to the Swiss, but they are not paid enough for it.” She asked: “How does the canton of Zurich intend to handle the situation at the airline?” Baltic/Swiss?” and how to ensure that the pay difference is compensated retroactively.
Switzerland defends itself against accusations…
The Swiss defends himself. Of course, “we generally prefer to conduct all flights ourselves, with our own aircraft and crew. This would also be more attractive financially, a company spokeswoman said. However, wet leases make it possible to mitigate seasonal peak periods or unexpected events. You comply with all legal regulations. “The allegation of illegal or impermissible conduct or contracts in relation to our partnership with AirBaltic is baseless.”
The accusation of dumping wages is also false. “Swiss does not have employment contracts with AirBaltic employees and therefore has no influence on the payment of wages. The Swiss spokeswoman explained that the employees work for Air Baltic, live in Latvia and are mainly deployed on Air Baltic’s regular route network.
AirBaltic is also defending itself against these accusations. All participants in wet rental services are directly employed. They will be “employed with full social security in accordance with Latvian law.” The home base has always been Riga, Latvia, and it should remain that way. It should also be noted that “the average monthly income of a cabin crew is higher than the average income in Latvia for the same job. The average income of employees in the cockpit is even higher than the average income in Latvia for the same job.
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