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At least three Cargolux aircraft have remained on the ground today after one of the airline’s two pilot unions implemented a 24-hour ‘warning action’ following failed negotiations over safety.

The action began at 3.00am after a meeting between management and the LCGB union failed to reach agreement on a series of measures called “necessary” by the union, “to re-establish trust and safety culture”.

Cargolux issued a statement saying the action was illegal and that 76% of flights were operating normally, and 73% of pilots reported for work.

“The LCGB action is illegal. There is a valid Collective Work Agreement in place, with the parties actively negotiating towards a new agreement; and there is no dispute where non-conciliation has been declared. With its action, LCGB is in breach of its obligation to refrain from any act that could compromise the loyal execution of the collective agreement. Earlier today, a court ordered the immediate stoppage of the action.

“LCGB’s unlawful industrial action and its ongoing negative campaign against Cargolux are based on misleading statements, deceiving not only the public but also Cargolux’s employees and LCGB’s own members.

“Based on today’s court order, Cargolux will claim compensation for the harm suffered as a result of the disruption to its business. Due to LCGB’s legal status, all of its individual members could potentially be held liable for any damages caused to Cargolux.”

The extent of the action remained in dispute.

LCGB claimed that the “vast majority” of pilots were in favour of industrial action and that five aircraft were grounded, while its rival, the larger OGBL union claimed that just 16 out of 450 pilots were striking this morning, and that only three aircraft were on the ground.

An OGBL representative told The Loadstar it didn’t support the action: “We don’t agree with the LCGB’s approach,” said union secretary Hubert Hollerich. “The OGBL is not participating because we are actually in a negotiation process for the new Collective Work Agreement (CWA). How can you build up trust by industrial action? The OGBL does not agree with the arguments of LCGB.”

LCGB claimed that the recent dismissal of four pilots who took too many sick days has threatened the safety culture of the airline. It appeared that Cargolux hired a private investigator to watch the pilots, who allegedly broke the terms of their sick leave – by, in some cases, being in the wrong city, visiting gyms and restaurants, or consuming significant amounts of alcohol, suggesting that they weren’t too ill to fly.

However, Aloyse Kapwiler, union secretary for the LCGB said: “It doesn’t matter what the pilots did during their sickness. The fact is that the company never spoke to them before about their sickness and the facts go back up to three years in the past. The main point is that pilots now are not reporting sick while being unfit to fly, because they are scared.”

He called on management to allow employee delegations to initiate an Event Review Group to analyse incidents and recommend measures, to add two employee representatives onto the disciplinary committee, and to allow a union delegation to do an internal review process within the disciplinary policy. However, claimed the union: “Cargolux management continues to categorically refuse the implementation of the … measures.”

Cargolux’s management appears to be playing hardball with LCGB, while apparently maintaining better relations with OGBL. Mr Hollerich said that “the negotiation climate for the new CWA is good and very constructive”.

He expected it to be finished next month.

OGBL has eight delegates in negotiations, against six from the LCGB and one independent – giving OGBL the ability to out-vote the LCGB. Mr Hollerich said the LCGB’s opinion on the CWA “doesn’t interest me”.

He added that a tribunal would decide whether the decision to fire the four pilots was correct or not.

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