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Europe

Hundreds of flights grounded by Lufthansa pilot strike

Text by News Wires , Euny HONG

Latest update : 2010-02-24

Lufthansa pilots began a four-day strike on Monday - the German flagship carrier's biggest walkout in nine years - in a dispute over job security, with an anticipated two-thirds of its 800 daily flights grounded.

The German airline Lufthansa was forced to cancel two-thirds of its flights Monday – about 800 in total - as pilots began a four-day strike. Organised by the German pilot’s union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), the pilots are seeking a 6.4% pay rise, but its primary concern with job security. The union is about 8,200 strong, with about half its members striking.

The beef

The VC union is concerned that jobs at Lufthansa will be outsourced to cheaper pilots at some of Lufthansa’s subsidiary airlines. In fact, the union accuses Lufthansa of deliberately acquiring the smaller airlines for this express purpose. An official statement on the VC web site entitled “Information on the Pilot strike by Lufthansa and German Wings” refers specifically to Lufthansa-Italia, Aerologic, and Jade. “All three companies are run without Lufthansa pilots,” said the statement.

Speaking from the Frankfurt-am-Main airport – a major European hub which has been brought to a standstill - VC spokesman Alexander Gerhard-Madjidi told reporters “We are not bluffing, we are willing to prolong the strike. We could make this weekly.”

The strike comprises pilots from the main Lufthansa passenger carrier as well as Lufthansa Cargo and German Wings, Lufthansa’s low-cost carrier.

“Entirely inappropriate”

Lufthansa, in turn, was not shy about expressing its response to the Union’s statement, saying in a statement dated 17 February that the union made demands besides job security that were patently ridiculous and called the strike “entirely inappropriate.”

The German airline has asked a Frankfurt court to block the strike from continuing past its first day.

Lufthansa initially predicted around 3,200 cancellations over the four striking days and allowed customers to change bookings or gave them train tickets.

Should the union adapt to the times?

The last Lufthansa strike of this scope was a three-day strike by the VC union in May 2001 which crippled the airline and cost it an estimated 125 million euros. The strike ended when the airline agreed to a 20% wage increase.

That, however, was in a different economic climate. A recent phenomenon in large-scale wage negotiations is unions being forced to be more flexible, with some compromising on wages in return for job security.

For example German automaker Volkswagen this week guaranteed the jobs of 100,000 workers until the end of 2014, with Daimler doing the same for 37,000 at its main site.

Lufthansa, meanwhile, counters that "not one" job has been outsourced.

A list of flights affected by the strike can be found on the Lufhansa website: www.lufthansa.com.

Date created : 2010-02-22

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