Although the finer points have yet to be fleshed out in public, behind-closed-doors meetings between Slovenian flag-carrier and representatives of its 113 pilots have resulted in consensus, bringing to an end industrial action initiated by the Brnik-based aviators.
An ultimatum of further scheduled strikes hung heavy over Ljubljana, at a time when Adria’s Summer timetable had recently come into force. With a prospect of further walkouts during Spring threatening to overlap into the meteorological Summer it is presumed the airline’s hand was forced – to at least find a compromise with its most vital staff of all. The background which led up to industrial action has almost seen a veritable somnambulation towards the abyss, with both parties being well aware of the other’s diametrically-opposed stance, all the while the expectation of the eventual outcome seeming inevitable.
Demanding the reinstatement of the former collective bargaining agreement which expired at the end of February, Adria’s pilots sought a modest pay-rise, along with a commitment of protection to longstanding workers’ rights. The 4k Invest-owned airline took something of a contrary view, allegedly requiring its pilots to take a 35% salary CUT; although in receipt of a seemingly generous €8,000 per month pay packet, a 35% drop in wages is extremely significant and unacceptable – however much one may earn.
Now that one disaster has been averted, the next in Adria’s in-tray is a rinse and repeat exercise – but this time involving the airline’s cabin-crew. Their own collective bargaining agreement recently expired meaning it, and the apparent(but yet to be publicised) success Adria’s pilots found by opting to strike will encourage the union representing flight attendants that a similar course of action could effectuate their own desired outcome.
Many aviation commentators believe Adria Airways have now stabilized after what has been a turbulent few years, which saw a change of ownership for both the airline and its main partner – Ljubljana’s Brnik Aerodrom. Bought out by Fraport, the German-based owner-operator of Slovenia’s primary airport, Brnik have sought to keep Adria on a long-lead. Whilst recognising the benefits of a symbiotic relationship with the country’s flag-carrier, Fraport have been wary of allowing the airport’s fortunes to become inextricably linked to the recently denationalised airline. Indeed, Fraport have moved away from a virtual monopoly on operations it seemed at times that Adria held at Brnik, although they still operate approximately 60% of all flight movements at Joze Pucnik Airport.
Adria have responded to the ending of its cosy relationship with Brnik, although relations with Fraport are once again cordial and business-like. The airline has experimented with basing ‘planes in various Polish cities, although many of these heavily-subsidized services by local municipalities have now been discontinued. It seems clear that Adria have now refocused their minds on operating an overwhelming majority of its flights out of Brnik, and what’s more concentrate on its core market that links Balkan diaspora working in Slovenia with their home countries – flights that are complemented in the Summer by sunshine charters to the Mediterranean and the continuation of its longstanding twice-weekly service between Ljubljana and Manchester, amongst others.
Strikes do not necessarily indicate an airline is in crisis; many bigger carriers than Adria have over the years endured and come through similar scenarios. Being juxtaposed with the airline’s fluctuating fortunes of recent times has though undoubtedly heightened the nervousness that industrial action inevitably induces, although it is hoped that Adria can eventually shrug off its ‘crisis airline’ tag – at least until the next collective bargaining agreement once more comes up for discussion.
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