German airline staff prepare for strike
FRANKFURT – Lufthansa cabin crew will strike throughout Germany on Friday for a full 24 hours, upping the stakes in a row over pay and conditions that threatens to drag on for weeks and cost Germany’s biggest airline tens of millions of euros.
Cabin crews walked out at Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin airports yesterday, forcing Lufthansa to cancel hundreds more flights following strike action last Friday that left 26,000 passengers stranded.
The UFO union said a Germany-wide strike would run from midnight on Friday (German time) and union head Nicoley Baublies, speaking to a German broadcaster, called on Lufthansa to start mediation, a process that would halt the strikes. Lufthansa repeated its earlier statement that it saw no reason for mediation. “The offer already made is reason enough to return to the negotiating table,” a spokesman said.
Lufthansa, which operates from 16 airports in Germany, cancelled over 300 flights, or more than one in six of its daily total, yesterday.
“It is difficult for the company to cushion the impact. We cannot just get new flight attendants and the personnel buffer is limited,” Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther said.
Its Austrian Airlines unit, unaffected by the strikes because its staff are on separate contracts, said it was using larger aircraft on routes to Germany to help out its parent.
While Germany has a track record of mostly harmonious labour relations compared with other major European countries such as France, its airlines and airports have been hit by a string of disputes in recent years as companies battle to cut costs to cope with the rise of low-cost carriers, soaring fuel prices, fast-growing Middle East airlines and an air travel tax.
A strike by Lufthansa pilots in 2010 caused more than 2,800 flight cancellations, and earlier this year a strike by airfield staff at Frankfurt airport also hit Lufthansa’s business.
Trade union UFO, which represents about two-thirds of Lufthansa’s 18,000 cabin crew, had called for eight hours of strikes in Frankfurt and Berlin and 11 hours in Munich yesterday.– (Reuters)