Costs have been cut, flexworkers sent away. Now it is the turn of the permanent staff. About 1,500 people will be fired from the airline KLM next year, the company announced Friday. For employees who are allowed to stay, there is a risk of a wage cut as part of a package of cost savings.
Overall, KLM is shrinking from 33,000 full-time jobs at the end of last year (including temporary workers) to 28,000, perhaps a little more, next year. Most people leave via a voluntary departure scheme, because their temporary or flexible contract has not been renewed or because of, for example, retirement. A smaller proportion are fired.
Layoffs are inevitable, according to KLM CEO Pieter Elbers. The airline is already assuming an optimistic recovery scenario, he wrote in a statement to his employees on Friday.
KLM has been hit hard by the corona pandemic. In March, April and May it suffered an operating loss of EUR 493 million, it emerged on Thursday. At the beginning of April, KLM was only able to perform 15 percent of the flights, in July 30 percent. The company now assumes that capacity will have risen again to 80 percent next year. But that prognosis is uncertain. “It’s hard to predict the next two months,” Elbers said at a news conference, “never mind next summer.”
More layoffs also possible
If passengers return more slowly than expected, more layoffs will follow. For every 5 percentage points below KLM’s flight capacity of 80 percent, another 800 jobs will have to disappear, Elbers wrote to his staff.
It cannot be the case that they release fixed forces and take back flex forces
Joost van Doesburg FNV driver
The CNV union is ‘happy’ that KLM has anticipated such an optimistic scenario. But union FNV turns against all forced layoffs. Especially since the union is already seeing the hiring of flex workers on the work floor, says director Joost van Doesburg. “It cannot be that they release permanent workers and take back flex workers for it.”
Elbers says that KLM always needs a flexible layer to deal with peaks and troughs, but Van Doesburg says it threatens to get out of hand. “We see 40 to 80 percent flex workers in some departments.”
Resist unions against wage sacrifice
The unions are even more vehemently opposed to the intended ‘pay sacrifice’ that is being asked of the staff. In June, the cabinet pledged EUR 3.4 billion in emergency aid to KLM in the form of loans and loan guarantees. At the same time, it demanded cost reductions. KLM had to cut working conditions, among other things. Income up to twice the average would fall by at least 10 percent, from three times the average it would be at least 20 percent.
“This is actually a dictation from the government,” says Gertjan Tommel of the union De Unie. “We are always ready to contribute, but only in consultation with KLM. Without a government pistol on our head. ”
Other unions have also criticized the government requirement. They should not interfere with working conditions, also from a legal point of view, they say. Six unions have complained about this to the European Commission. He said that he was still handling the complaint. In any event, this complaint is unrelated to the Commission’s recent approval of state aid to KLM. This approval focused mainly on competition criteria.
The CNV union also fears that staff will ‘get into double trouble’ if they first have to hand in part of their wages and are later fired. “Then they will also receive a lower unemployment benefit,” says director Michiel Wallaard.
In addition, FNV and CNV require that everyone with an income below one and a half times the average does not have to submit a salary. Now that limit is modal one more time. A Second Chamber majority recently asked to spare this group ‘as much as possible’.
From mid-August, KLM will negotiate with the unions about a social plan and changes to working conditions.
A version of this article also appeared in the NRC Handelsblad of 1 August 2020
A version of this article also appeared in nrc.next dated August 1, 2020