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How UFO’s Streik Affects Thousands of Germans Posted by on Nov 7, 2019 in Culture, Language

Since a few hours, hundreds of thousands of Passagiere (passengers) are waiting at Flughäfen (airports) for their flights – Lufthansa cancelled a lot of them today and tomorrow. Because of a Streik (strike) of UFO. Who’s UFO and why are they doing this? Let’s find out.

What’s going on?

The Unabhängige Flugbegleiter Organisation (UFO) e.V. (independent steward organisation, UFO) announced a Streik today andtomorrow, starting Thursday at 0.00 running through Friday 23.59 – so 48 hours in total. The UFO is a Gewerkschaft (labor union) for flight attendants, and by striking, many flights can not take off. Specifically, UFO is striking Lufthansa flights, since Lufthansa is refusing to engage in Tarifverhandlungen (pay bargaining). UFO demands higher Löhne (pay) and Zulagen (extra pay).

Because of this Streik, 1300 Flüge (flights) have to be abgesagt (cancelled), affecting around 180,000 Passagiere (passengers). That’s a huge number! To entgegenkommen (accommodate) affected Passagiere, Lufthansa offers the possibility to umbuchen (rebook) a flight on Thursday or Friday to another flight in the next 10 days – whether the flight is cancelled or not. On Flüge within Germany, a flight can also be rebooked to a Bahnticket (train ticket).

Lufthansa verurteilt (condemns) the Streikaufs Schärfste” (utterly). The German Fluggesellschaft (airline) defends its position of not entering Verhandlungen by claiming that the Vorstand (board) of UFO is not vertretungsberechtigt (authorized to represent). This is because of a change of the Vorstand earlier this year after an internal dispute at UFO.

Vor Gericht (in court), Lufthansa tried to get the judge to stop the Streik, but twice (once in erster Instanz (first instance), once in Berufung (in appeal) were denied their demands.

So all in all, quite a heavy blow to Lufthansa, once again; The Streik comes only two weeks after a Streiktag (strike day) of UFO in October. Will this finally lead Lufthansa to sit down and negotiate with UFO?

Or is Lufthansa backing out of their relationship with UFO completely and opting for UFO’s competing Gewerkschaft Ver.di instead?

Gewerkschaftsstreiks in Germany

Image by Aero Icarus at under license CC BY SA 2.0).

Such Gewerkschaftsstreiks are quite common in Germany. Also known as an Ausstand, a Streik is an essential tool for Gewerkschaften to push their interests in the well-established Arbeitskampf (industrial conflict) in Germany. While this sounds quite violent, it really isn’t. Arbeitskampf is, in legal German, “die von den Parteien des Arbeitslebens vorgenommene Störung des Arbeitsfriedens, um durch Druck ein bestimmtes Ziel oder Fernziel zu erreichen” (the disruption of labor peace, planned by the parties of working life, to reach a certain goal or long-term goal through pressure).

During a Streik, the Arbeitgeber (employer) is not required to pay wages according to the principle “ohne Arbeit kein Lohn” (without work no wage). In turn, the Gewerkschaft usually pays some sort of compensation to those on strike from the Streikkasse (strike fund).

Streiks have increased in recent years, but are still quite uncommon. In international comparisons, Germans don’t strike a lot. Between 2005 and 2013, 16 Arbeitstage (work days) were missing per year per 1000 employees. In France, on the other hand, this is 139 days, in Denmark 135 and in Canada 102.

But even so, Streiks can be very effective to force the hand of the employer. Let’s see how this one will pan out.

If you have Lufthansa flights booked for today or tomorrow, make sure to double check your flight’s not cancelled!

How are Streiks handled in your country? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.