Lufthansa Cabin Crew Expand German Strikes in Pay Dispute

Lufthansa Cabin Crew Expand Strikes in Germany in Salary Dispute
A Deutsche Lufthansa AG employee wears a "Strike!" badge during a protest at Frankfurt's Rhein-Main airport in Frankfurt, on Aug. 31, 2012. Photographer: Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-largest airline, canceled at least 385 flights today as cabin crew expanded strike action to three German airports in their second walkout of a 13-month wage dispute.

Flight attendants went on strike this morning in Frankfurt and Berlin, and this afternoon in Munich, the Unabhaengige Flugbegleiter Organisation union said in a statement. Cologne-based Lufthansa operates about 1,800 flights a day globally.

While largely affecting services within Europe, the cancellations also hit trips to Los Angeles, Chicago, Tokyo and Mexico City and will extend into tomorrow. Flight attendants in Frankfurt first walked off the job for eight hours on Aug. 31 in the dispute over pay increases and wage scales as Lufthansa implements a 1.5 billion-euro ($1.9 billion) savings program.

“We regret that it had to come to this escalation,” the union said in the statement. “However, the negotiations have reached a point where it left us no alternative but to strike.”

Lufthansa has already announced plans to scrap as many as 4,500 administrative and catering jobs from its 120,000-strong global workforce. Contract talks with the UFO collapsed on Aug. 28, with the union outlining plans for short-term strikes that could be followed by unlimited walkouts.

Time Lag

Walkouts today were scheduled to span 5 a.m. until 1 p.m. local time in Berlin, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Frankfurt and 1 p.m. to midnight in Munich, UFO said in separate statements.

Around 43,000 passengers had been affected as of 6 p.m., Lufthansa spokesman Christoph Meier said by telephone. The carrier usually transport 180,000 passengers each day, he said.

“The operation as a whole is not back to normal yet as Munich is still on strike, and because there is of course a time lag in getting things back,” Meier said.

An extension of the action across Germany would cost Lufthansa 12 million euros a day, according to Peter Oppitzhauser, a Zurich-based analyst at Credit Agricole. That would amount to 2 percent of full-year operating profit, based on the analyst consensus figure, he calculates.

Lufthansa fell 1.3 percent to 9.67 euros in Frankfurt. It has added 5.3 percent in 2012 for a value of 4.43 billion euros.

UFO wants a 5 percent raise on a one-year contract backdated to April 1, and contends that Lufthansa’s most recent pay proposal amounts to a 1.5 percent annual increase that would erode wages by 1,300 euros a month after inflation.

‘Stand Still’

Lufthansa said on Aug. 28 that its raise totals 3.5 percent over time and that all flight attendants would get higher pay.

The union says it also opposes a Lufthansa call for flight attendants assigned to Berlin, where the airline is expanding, to work 9 percent more hours than elsewhere for the same wages, and has objected to the use of temporary workers.

If Lufthansa declines talks “then at some stage in the next few days we will say that Germany will stand still for 24 hours,” with strikes extended nationwide, UFO head Nicoley Baublies said in an interview with the N24 television station.

There is also no agreement about whether, after 2013, staff could be transferred to new low-cost divisions on less lucrative contracts, according to UFO.

Frankfurt was Europe’s third-busiest airport in the 12 months through May, behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle, according to trade group Airports Council International.

Lufthansa ranks second in Europe to Air France-KLM Group by traffic, or the number of passengers times the distance flown.


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