Over the past five years, Finnair has been in the black only once, and the easiest way to save on operating costs is to put Finnish crews out to pasture and replace them with lower-paid foreign personnel.
"Our job is to make this company profitable, and the only means of doing so is to lower costs," stresses Finnair's Chief Operating Officer Ville Iho.
Finns are expensive
"People have been moved out of jobs and no one has been hired in Finland in six years to replace them," says Anu Hietala of the Finnish Cabin Crew Union.
The airline first began hiring foreign cabin crew members to work on its Asian routes in the early 2000's.
According to the Finnish Cabin Crew Union, the basic salary of a Chinese cabin crew member is around 400 euros a month, only one-quarter of the pay of a Finnish flight attendant who has just completed training. The Union says that with all added benefits, the pay of Chinese flight attendants is approximately 1500 euros a month, but shifts are also more frequent with two a week on the Beijing-Helsinki route.
As of March, American cabin crews will be employed by Finnair on flights between Helsinki and New York. The go-ahead for work permits have been granted by Ministry of Employment and the Economy officials and are now awaiting final approval by immigration authorities.
Finnair says that the terms of general Finnish wage and employment agreements are not applicable to workers hired through foreign HR services or subcontracted from abroad.