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Lufthansa Grounded in Europe as Workers Protest for Pay Increase

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March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Lufthansa AG scrapped more than 760 European flights today as cabin crew and ground personnel went on strike over pay, adding to weeks of disruptions that stemmed from poor weather and other protests.

About 2,000 employees rallied outside Chief Executive Officer Christoph Franz’s office at Frankfurt Airport today, waving flags, blowing whistles and banging drums to protest a company plan to freeze pay for two years. The Ver.di union called staff in Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Cologne and Berlin to walk out until noon to support its demand for 5.2 percent more pay ahead of tomorrow’s talks with management.

Franz is facing resistance to his efficiency program aimed at lifting operating profit to 2.3 billion euros ($3 billion) by 2015. Workers this year already staged strikes to push through higher pay for security guards at airports including Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Cologne, and severe winter weather led to thousands of flight cancellations at the main Frankfurt hub.

“The negotiations are different this time around as there are so many issues to deal with,” Christine Behle, who sits on Ver.di’s federal executive board, said in an interview, referring to the company demand for a pay freeze, and plans to cut as many as 3,500 jobs and close sites. “Employees are disappointed by management’s attitude, but we still hope to reach an agreement soon.”

Behle will succeed Frank Bsirske on Lufthansa’s supervisory board after Europe’s second-biggest airline holds its annual meeting in Cologne on May 7.

Lufthansa called the strikes “excessive” because it’s only entering the second round of negotiations tomorrow. The first meeting on Feb. 26 ended in stalemate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Weiss in Frankfurt at rweiss5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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