Hard touch down for aviation companies’ damage claims

On 25. August 2015 the Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) ruled that a supporting strike by a third party occupational group which is not part of the labor dispute but is represented by the union involved will not entitle the affected third party companies to damages (ref. no. 1 AZR 754/13).

In several parallel cases which were brought to the Federal Labor Court on appeal, the union for air traffic management (Gewerkschaft der Flugsicherung e.V., “GdF”) was in a labor dispute with the operator of Stuttgart airport (Flughafen Stuttgart GmbH) with regard to the employment conditions of apron control employees. In the course of the dispute the apron control employees went on strike. The GdF then called on the unionized air traffic controllers to support the strike. Accordingly on 6. April 2009 the air traffic controllers stopped their work between 16:00 and 22:00. Due to a prohibition order of the Labor Court Frankfurt am Main (Arbeitsgericht Frankfurt am Main), the GdF aborted the supporting strike. Four aviation companies sued the GdF for damages as only 25% of the planned flights could be operated.

The Federal Labor Court found, in accordance with the lower courts, that the plaintiffs were not entitled to damages. The court denied a claim based on sec. 823 para. 1 BGB as it found that the property of the plaintiffs was not violated by the fact that the use of their aircrafts was restricted, nor were that the plaintiffs’ rights arising from their established and operating businesses violated. Further the court held that the actions of the GdF were not illegal or immoral action according to sec. 826 BGB.