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Martina Šumavská | December 5, 2023

CJEU on the proportional reduction of bonus limits for part-time employees

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This October, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) issued a judgment in Case No: C-660/20, in which it dealt with a preliminary question asked by the German courts. In this case, the CJEU addressed the question of whether a stipulation, which could disadvantage part-time pilots, was compatible with EU law.

A German Lufthansa pilot demanded that Lufthansa pay him bonuses for hours flown. For these bonuses, the collective agreement set decisive limits on the number of overtime hours flown. The aforementioned 90%-time pilot believed that if he met 90% of these thresholds for bonus attainment, he would qualify for a bonus, as would his full-time colleagues. However, Lufthansa disagreed, and so their dispute made its way through the German courts to the CJEU.

According to the Framework Agreement, which was an annex to EU Council Directive 97/81/EC on part-time work, part-time workers must not be disadvantaged simply because they are part-time workers, unless justified on objective grounds. This is also the case under German law, which governs this dispute. However, the collective agreement applicable to Lufthansa pilots establishes 3 thresholds (for short and long-haul flights) for the payment of bonuses, which are not reduced in any way for part-time pilots.

Interestingly, the CJEU also requested the opinion of the Advocate General, who found no violation of rights, as did the governments of Poland, Norway and Denmark, which also participated in the proceedings.

In the end, however, the CJEU ruled that the pilot’s rights had been violated, thus giving the benefit of the doubt to the German government and the European Commission, which were parties to the proceedings in a similar way to the aforementioned governments. According to the CJEU, both part-time and full-time pilots perform the same work and their situations are therefore comparable. In this context, the limits set in this way for achieving bonuses represent a greater burden, in relation to the ratio with basic working hours, for part-time pilots. According to the CJEU, this is therefore contrary to both EU and German law.

The German courts will therefore have to follow this decision in the pilot’s ongoing dispute, and the company’s collective agreement will probably also need to be amended. And since this is not a decision that binds only German companies and courts, it will certainly have an impact in the Czech Republic as well.

Author: Martina Šumavská, Petr Pešek