Lufthansa Faces New Strike Risk as Cabin Crew Arbitration Fails

Deutsche Lufthansa AG faces new walkouts by its cabin crews after efforts to resolve a labor conflict involving several bargaining agreements with the help of two arbitrators probably failed.

“It looks like the end of the arbitration process is just a formality and it will fail,” UFO union head Nicoley Baublies said by telephone. “The positions are so far apart that either we, or Lufthansa, will likely not accept the recommendation the arbitrators make.”

Lufthansa and the union had set a time line in July to resolve a set of pending issues including wages and retirement benefits for flight attendants, and agreed in January to seek outside help. Arbitrators Herta Daeubler-Gmelin and Friedrich Merz may now make a recommendation to the company and the union on June 20, and strikes could start as early as June 23, Baublies said.

The breakdown is a setback for Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr, who is also in a dispute with his pilots union that has resulted in the worst walkouts in the airline’s history. Spohr also agreed on arbitration with pilots following the crash in March of a plane from Lufthansa’s Germanwings unit. The potential cabin-crew arbitration collapse may indicate efforts to placate employees, who are protesting benefit cuts to make the carrier more competitive, are falling apart.

In a separate statement, Cologne, Germany-based Lufthansa said it offered “substantial improvements” to its latest offer to flight attendants on corporate pensions and early retirement benefits, and suggested a grace period of three years in which the parties should try to resolve the outstanding issues.

Baublies said the union is appealing again to management “to meet and talk to us to find a solution so that strikes can be avoided.”

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