Germans Can Joke: Lufthansa CEO Suggests Worst Labor Negotiator Ever

Filed Under: Lufthansa, Qatar

You’ve gotta love Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways’ CEO. He’s hands down the most prolific character in the airline industry. And I have such mixed feelings about him. On one hand I appreciate his passion and no-nonsense approach to things, on the other hand hand I don’t appreciate the way employees are treated, and how he’s dishonest about how he runs his airline.


But you’ve gotta love when other airlines joke about him.

Lufthansa is having huge issues with their unions at the moment, in particular with their pilots union. In 2014, Lufthansa’s pilots went on strike 10 times over early retirement benefits, which apparently cost the airline over 200 million Euros.

So what solution does the Lufthansa CEO have, via Arabian Business?

Lufthansa’s latest offer to German pilots has been rejected by their unions this week, but the flag carrier’s CEO has joked in an exclusive interview with Arabian Business that his back-up plan may be to hire outspoken Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker as his union advisor.

And for a bit of context on Al Baker and his thoughts on unions:

A well-known outspoken opponent of trade unions is Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who two years ago riled international union bosses when he said they were partly to blame for the stagnant growth and unemployment problems faced by the western world during the global economic crisis.

“If you did not have unions you wouldn’t have this jobless problem in the western world… It is caused by unions making companies and institutions uncompetitive and bringing them to a position of not being efficient,” Al Baker told Arabian Business in an interview.

“If you go and ask the politicians in most of the countries in the western world they would love to have the system we have: where the workers have rights through the law but they do not have rights through striking and undermining successful institutions that provide jobs to their knees,” he added.

Too funny! And this comes shortly after Al Baker says the only reason Qatar Airways flies the A350 to Frankfurt is to “rub salt in the wound” of Lufthansa.

  1. I have such a love/hate relationship with unions. I love how they improved workplace safety in many hazardous industries, helped provided for livable wages, and put pressure on non-union employers to do the same.

    However, I very much dislike strong arm tactics they employ, how they often impeded the ability of business to compete in an open market , forcing folks to pay union dues who have no interest in it, creating convoluted work rules, and protecting the bottom feeder employees while holding back the best.

    I just wish there was a happy medium……

  2. I’m not sure “prolific” is the right word to use here, although thinking of AAB banging his way through the QR staff is somehow oddly amusing.

  3. Anyone who is anti-union should go read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” for a vivid depiction of what workers’ lives are like without unions. The improvement in working conditions since the early 20th century happened largely because of unions, and now that unions are dying out again, working conditions are slowly becoming worse.

    If you dislike unions because they are disruptive to the free market, than you are missing the point entirely. Unions only have power by being disruptive. That is the ONLY weapon they have against a company that is mistreating its workers.

  4. Very naive comment @snic.

    Unions should exist to enforce existing laws or push for new laws. While fighting for better pay/benefits through Unions is a nice concept, it is more often a tremendous drag on individual organizations and the economy as a whole. See Longshoreman in the western U.S. if you need further proof.

  5. I believe every single word come out from Qatar CEO’s mouth from that quote is correct. Western workers are spoiled,and cannot get used to free market anymore.
    Seriously, what Lufthansa should do is to recruit pilots outside Germany to replace these pilots’ jobs.

  6. @snic – You mean what workers’ lives WERE like without unions. No company would be able to get away with that kind of thing today, with the internet, Twitter, and cameras in peoples’ phones. Unions today are FAR more interested in threats, intimidation, whining, and increasing their own power than anything else.

  7. And yet, Brian, in some parts of the world (e.g., India), workers’ lives are little different nowadays than they were here in Upton Sinclair’s time – and guess what? In India they have just as many cell phones and just as much access to Twitter and the internet as we do. Technology is not going to protect us.

    At the same time, back here at home, wages are stagnant even as the economy has been steadily recovering. Now, why might that be? Maybe because workers have so little pull nowadays, both political and with their employers, because unions are so rare and weak? That might not be the whole story, but it’s part of it.

    And Ron, as for longshoremen: I hardly think they are a “tremendous drag on the economy.” Gee, guys doing hard work and getting paid a decent wage for it, and refusing to be exploited. What a concept. It sure sounds foreign nowadays. Maybe that’s why you find it so troublesome.

  8. Unions, in a perfect world, would be a vehicle for providing a collective voice for workers and a collaborative partner in business. Sadly we do not live in a perfect world, and like pretty much all organisations, unions look after themselves first and foremost (just like businesses look after themselves first and foremost) with employees/society/etc coming off quite a distance behind.

    Ideally win-win outcomes for everyone would sought all the time, but the reality is mutually beneficial outcomes are of less interest to the players than knocking everyone else on the hill in the quest for dominance over all (it’s an antagonistic rather than collaborative system, and getting worse as every year passes).

  9. @snic – Your understanding of the dock strike speaks volumes.

    Piece of advice: Certainty only impresses the ignorant.

  10. @Snic is actually straight up correct, and makes some very well articulated points. I’ve worked non-union and union jobs and am currently in a union position as a nurse-and there is no comparison. Unions give you a voice at the table and I’m sorry, @Ron that is just the plain truth. It’s total folly to blame the problems of the world on unions. Unions created the middle class in this country and if you look closely at EXACTLY when the middle class began to slip in the United States it was EXACTLY when union membership began its decline.

    I don’t much care about Qatar Airlines because I’m not ever going to fly them. I’ll stick with union carriers thanks. And Lufthansa has done a pretty good job at creating a world class airline-even with a union.

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