Strike at Czech Airlines narrowly averted

Photo: Tomáš Adamec

Several hundred flight attendants at the Czech national carrier, Czech Airlines, were expected to strike next Thursday in protest over extensive layoffs and wage cuts. That was averted when on Friday afternoon the company announced it and had reached a deal with trade unions, saying fewer employees would be let go.

Photo: Tomáš Adamec
On Friday morning, there was no signal that Czech Airlines would budge after initially rejecting an appeal by flight attendants to save 40 jobs. The carrier had even sought a court injunction to try and block the strike. Despite initially strong resolve by the airline that it had a backup plan if workers stayed away, evidently the threat had an impact. By Friday afternoon, management had reached a deal with the unions to step back from the brink. No concrete numbers about the number of jobs to be saved were immediately released. Prior to the deal, the company had been seeking to layoff some 80 pilots and around 170 flight attendants, as well additional administrative staff.

Employees have been deeply unsatisfied since ČSA announced in September for layoffs affecting staff across the board: pilots, crew, and administrators, together with wage cuts announced later, aimed at putting the ailing airline back on firmer ground. This week, the carrier’s minority shareholder Korean Air (which owns 44 percent) also conditioned an increase of capital in the company on the full implementation of a restructuring plan including not only the selling off of assets but slashing wages and reducing the workforce.

ČSA currently employs 230 pilots, 400 flight attendants and nearly 270 administrative workers. By contrast, back in 2011, the air carrier reportedly had 1,500 employees. The company, though, has been hard hit, the latest setback when its strategy to focus on Russia and post-Soviet states suffered as a result of Russian intervention in Ukraine. Last year, the airline posted losses of more than 900 million crowns. The state-owned company Český aeroholding, which owns the 54 percent majority stake, had suggested that layoffs and wage cuts were the only way forward. Even with the compromise agreed Friday, the overall framework of ČSA’s restructuring plan will remain unchanged.