The board of directors at Portugal’s troubled airline TAP and the government have made a “historic” agreement with unions to save the national carrier from complete paralysation and avoid possible collapse.
“This is historic,” said the TAP board over what it and the Portuguese minister for transport, Pedro Nuno Santos, have classified “emergency agreements” signed by all the unions representing staff, pilots, cabin crew and engineers working for the airline.
This includes SITAVA (the aviation personnel union) which is affiliated to the CGTP (the transport and general workers union).
The agreement anticipates tough salary cuts and amicable severances as an offset to more aggressive mass redundancies.
The emergency agreements are a necessary condition to avoid the immediate suspension of collective contracts because TAP is considered to be a ‘company in a difficult economic situation’ and will allow a restructuring plan to be carried out without the expected industrial action following collective redundancies – a restructuring which is still in the process of being negotiated with Brussels.
The negotiations between TAP and around 10 unions have taken place over the past three weeks, but intensified over the course of last week since the deadline to reach an agreement was looming.
There were successive meetings, some of them running into the night, and which involved the TAP president, Miguel Frasquilho, the interim CEO, Ramiro Sequeira, the Adjunct Secretary of State and for Communications, Hugo Mendes, a specialist employment law lawyer, Guilherme Dray, and the Minister for Transport, Pedro Nuno Santos.
Now, the pilots’ union will accept salary cuts of or above 25% to protect jobs, while the cabin crew union has accepted a part-time model which will have reduced working hours of up to 85% as well as a 25% salary cut.
In both cases, what is foreseen is a reduction in the additional measures to the cut in salaries originally expected over the next four years.
And on the TAP side, and to offset, is a reduction in the number of employees that will have to leave.
The exact terms are unknown, and vary from each sub-sector within the company, but TAP employees will only suffer salary cuts if they earn more than €1,330 (instead of the €900 originally anticipated).
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By CHRIS GRAEME/ESSENTIAL BUSINESS