Lufthansa Faces Three Months of Strikes as Union Sets Deadline

Carsten Spohr
Deutsche Lufthansa AG. CEO Carsten Spohr. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Deutsche Lufthansa AG faces almost three months of on-and-off strikes that threaten to disrupt Germany’s largest carrier during the travel-intensive summer vacation period after talks with cabin crew about benefits broke down.

Cabin-crew union UFO will ask its members to strike on individual days from July 1 to at least Sept. 16 after faulting Lufthansa for failure to honor accords signed last year. The group will present a strike schedule at the start of next month and will announce locations and fleets targeted only on the corresponding strike days, it said.

The announcement is a setback for Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr, who is trying to lower costs for corporate pensions and transitional benefits. Spohr had sought to defuse the strife following the Germanwings disaster in March, saying he’d be willing to extend his hand and work with employees to overcome the series of strikes that have hobbled the carrier for a year and eaten into earnings.

“We’re enormously frustrated,” UFO head Nicoley Baublies said at a press conference in Frankfurt Monday. “Our members fear Lufthansa has a Plan B, to move jobs out of the country.”

Lufthansa’s pilots union have gone on strike on multiple occasions in the last year in protest of planned benefit cuts, and both sides remain in arbitration to cut through the dispute.

The carrier can avoid the strikes if it makes a new offer by June 30, accepts the conditions both parties agreed on last year, and agrees on the previous benefits system until a new agreement is reached, the union said. Lufthansa spokesman Helmut Tolksdorf said the company regrets the union’s announcement and wants to continue negotiations.

UFO so far only held one country-wide strike, when flight attendants walked out for three days in the the summer of 2012, forcing the airline to cancel 1,500 flights at a cost of about 33 million euros ($37.5 million).

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