Hoekstra is putting pressure on KLM staff: agreements cannot be changed

In exchange for 3.4 billion euros in loans and bank guarantees from the state, the company has to cut back. At the beginning of October, KLM submitted a plan for this to Hoekstra, after months of negotiations with the unions.

‘Taxpayer’

However, the plans do not go far enough, according to Minister Hoekstra (CDA). “We all have to commit,” he refers to the agreements made in exchange for the billions of state aid.

This is ‘a balanced package’ that takes into account the employees, the future of the company and also ‘the taxpayer who coughs up this money’. “It is the only company in the Netherlands where we do this”, Hoekstra emphasizes. “I think it is reasonable and sensible that you ask for something in return.”

Duration of wage offering

It is especially wrong with the promises of trade unions about how long the wage sacrifice lasts. Hoekstra’s condition is that the wage offering lasts at least as long as the loan runs. But in the agreement with the VNV pilot’s union, the wage sacrifice will only run until March 2022, which is too short.

This already aroused surprise among other unions, says Jan van den Brink of FNV Grondpersoneel. “We thought that was a strange situation, you have to equalize that,” he says.

It is now up to the unions and KLM management to come up with a solution. The company is therefore holding crisis talks with the trade unions today. “We will hear where the bottleneck is this afternoon”, says Van den Brink.

‘Swallow or choke’

Those conversations are a minefield, explains one person involved. It is no longer a matter of negotiating the wage offering, but more ‘swallow or choke’. The company has nowhere to go, or so it sounds at KLM.

In addition to a crisis atmosphere, there is also amazement about Hoekstra’s attitude and especially the timing of today’s message. Why did he wait so long with it, when the austerity plan has been on his desk since October 1.

Loss of 1.7 billion

If the talks come to nothing, KLM will have a serious problem. The company badly needs the second tranche of the government support package. In the past quarter, parent company Air France-KLM suffered a loss of no less than 1.7 billion euros.

The fact that the staff and trade unions are negotiating so hard about the wage sacrifice that must be made while the water is up to the company’s lips, causes serious frustration in The Hague. “There is real misunderstanding for the lack of urgency among the unions here,” says political reporter Roel Schreinemachers.

“Apparently it is very easy to assume that the cabinet ultimately does not want to drop KLM,” he says. “But the reverse is also true: if the requirements are not met, KLM can really whistle for the rest of the pledged support.”

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