Lufthansa pilots turn up pressure with more strikes

29th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Lufthansa pilots turned up the pressure on management in an ongoing dispute over early retirement provisions on Monday by calling a fourth day of walkouts.

Just a day after pilots at French flag carrier Air France ended their longest-ever strike, Lufthansa pilots announced nearly a full-day of stoppages on long-haul flights out of Frankfurt for Tuesday.

The pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit called on its members to strike on long-haul flights departing from Germany's busiest airport between 8:00 am and 11:00 pm (0600-2100 GMT).

The strike would affect services on Airbus A380, A330 and A340 and Boeing 747 aircraft, the union said.

"We feel compelled to take further industrial action as Lufthansa management has failed so far to table an offer worthy of compromise," Cockpit said.

"We remain open to a deal in order to avert strikes and we regret any inconvenience caused to customers," it added.

Lufthansa said up to 56 flights from Frankfurt could be affected by the strike.

"We can't say at this point exactly how many will actually be cancelled," a spokesman told AFP.

"We also have long-haul flights leaving from Duesseldorf and Munich and these won't be affected.

"We're doing all we can to ensure as many flights as possible can actually take off. We're currently working on a contingency timetable, which we plan to publish in the next couple of hours," the spokesman added.

- Strike number four -

The stoppages mark the fourth day of cancellations and delays for air passengers in Germany in recent weeks.

The first strike at the end of August hit Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary Germanwings. The second walkout a week later affected domestic and regional services landing at or taking off from Frankfurt and the third stoppage targeted Munich airport, Germany's second-busiest air hub.

Lufthansa pilots can currently take paid early retirement from the age of 55. They are fighting a plan by the airline to raise the minimum age and to involve pilots in the financing of their pensions.

On Sunday, Air France's main pilots' union ended the longest strike in the carrier's history to allow "calmer" talks to go ahead over the contentious issue of the airline's low-cost subsidiary Transavia.

A spokesman for the SNPL union, Guillaume Schmid, told AFP the pilots were ending the protest -- which has cost Air France more than 200 million euros ($250 million) over the past two weeks -- so that the negotiations over Transavia can proceed.

Air France sees Transavia's development as vital in the struggle to retain market share in the cutthroat medium-haul sector, which is steadily being overrun by no-frills airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair.

But Air France pilots, who earn up to 250,000 euros a year, fear some of their flights will be replaced with services operated by Transavia, or their contracts will be squeezed by the expansion of the subsidiary.

The French flag carrier said it expects close to 60 percent of its flights to take off on Monday and it hopes to return to normal over the next two to three days after "mandatory checks" of grounded planes.


© 2014 AFP

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