This is something rarely heard from a leading manager of the logistics industry: the demand for higher salaries for the lower wage groups. Yet, it was a claim voiced by Thomas Mack, Executive VP Global Airfreight at DHL Global Forwarding, during a panel discussion orchestrated by the Frankfurt Air Cargo Community last Wednesday and Thursday at Rhein-Main Airport. His unexpected plea baffled most of the attendees along with online participants who had registered for the live event.
Within the logistics and particularly the air freight industry, Tom Mack is known as being a straight talker. He impressively proved this once more last week, when responding to a question tabled
by moderator Joachim von Winning, who had asked the 4 panelists what they consider to be the hottest topic currently under discussion within their enterprises.
Cheap is old school
“The by far most pressing issue is our staff. We tend to lose them to the fast-food guys or other industries with which we are competing on the labor market, because they are meanwhile paying comparable wages,” warned Mr. Mack. Hence, “In order to keep our warehouse personnel, ground handlers, and also office staff on board, we need to up their salaries,” he reasoned. “This is my firm conviction, and I’m not speaking on behalf of any trade union,” the DHL executive assured. “Cheap is not the solution. What’s needed is a paradigm shift from outsourcing to in-housing, making our ground handling people part of the DHL team, filling them with pride to work for our company.”
Upping the attractiveness of jobs
CCO Ashwin Bhat of Lufthansa Cargo applauded Tom Mack’s advance but reacted slightly differently to the wage issue by advocating to making jobs more attractive besides paying fair wages. “We need to increase the identification of our workforce with their firms, to up their professional satisfaction and to keep talents on board,” he recommended. “Skills can be learned, not the attitude!” he exclaimed.
Sustainability was the next topic discussed by the panel, which included Susanne Klingler-Werner, MD UPS Supply Chain Solutions, and TIACA MD, Glyn Hughes.
Communication must be improved
The unanimous opinion of the speakers was that the industry is already doing a lot in this field but fails to showcase its achievements. There are hundreds of successful and presentable examples of reducing CO2 emissions, eliminating packaging waste, and other environmental initiatives, but people do not know about them because the industry does not publicize them loudly and emphatically enough. This must radically change, the sooner the better, urged UPS executive, Susanne Klingler-Werner. “We need to identify topics, discuss them, bring ideas together, and transform them into a platform that we need to bring out and communicate on a broader level,” she urged.
Glyn Hughes concurred. This topic is mobilizing an entire generation, and the cargo industry targeted sustainability before the general public did, he reminded. “Air Cargo has a great story to tell, but it must be told to people outside this room. We haven’t done good PR in the past,” he criticized, imploring organizations and the entire industry to urgently do better.
Tom Mack and Ashwin Bhat argued along similar lines; both emphasized that success stories illustrating the effort of companies to reduce their CO2 footprint, must be communicated emphatically. Ultimately, it is also a matter of embarking an entire generation on journeys to new shores, positively motivating them for the air freight and logistics industry, for whom sustainability is at the top of the priority list.
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