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Austrian Airlines unions supported by European court offical

The old collective wage agreements that are at the centre of a dispute between Austrian Airlines and their cabin staff have been described as valid by a top legal official at the European Court of Justice.

The official recommended judges who are expected to rule on the agreements later this year to declare them valid until both sides can come to an arrangement over a new wage agreement.

The dispute over wages has been going on between the airline and staff for several years, and last week talks broke down after the works council rejected a wage offer from the company. Following that, Austrian Airlines then called off talks between the two sides.

The current dispute began when the company, owned by Lufthansa, moved its operations to subsidiary company Tyrolean Airways in 2012.

The move reduced the airline's pension obligations, helping to put the business back to profit last year but it was an unpopular move with unions.

Through the works council, staff have been fighting for the future wages to be based on the old collective wage agreements. However, the company wants to build wage agreements based on the less-generous Tyrolean Airways contracts.

The advocate-general at the European Court of Justice said the old collective wage agreements remain valid even when operations are moved to a new company and do so until they are replaced or expire.

Austrian Airlines however say that there is room for interpretation and are planning on looking further into the issue.

It is expected that an ECJ ruling will follow in the next six months or so.

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