Flight crews have begun fresh strikes at Lufthansa, prompting the German airline to cancel 84 long-haul flights for Tuesday. The union Cockpit is upset over a planned subsidiary to be based in Austria.Lufthansa pilots to ike Germany’s classic airline said it would still run 90 intercontinental flights and 7 cargo flights on Tuesday using volunteer crews after the union declared the breakdown of talks focused on cost-cutting efforts.
The strike by Cockpit (VC), which represents some 5,000 pilots with Lufthansa and another subsidiary Germanwings, is the 13th such work stoppage in the past 18 months. Its last strike was in March, shortly before the Germanwings disaster in France.
Cockpit said short and medium-range flights from Germany would be subjected to strike action on Wednesday.
Airline board member responsible for personnel Bettina Volkens said Lufthansa could only apologize to passengers, including families with intended flights home at the end of school vacations in Germany’s southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.
Strife centers on new unit Eurowings
Lufthansa managers want to further slash costs by transferring one Germanwings jet per month to a new low-pay unit Eurowings. It is incorporated in Austria, where German collective labor deals do not apply.
Union spokesman Markus Wahl said Lufthansa’s chief executive Carsten Spohr had refused to delay the relocation of jobs while both sides still negotiated. Lufthansa in turn said it had made “far-reaching” offers on Monday.
Wahl said management had rejected union savings suggestions worth about half-a-billion euros. This showed, Wahl said, that Lufthansa wanted to break out of existing collective agreements and weaken the union.
More strikes, with one day prior notice, were likely in the coming week to put pressure on the management of Europe’s largest airline, he said.
Long-haul flights affected
The 84 long-haul flights canceled among Tuesday’s usual schedule of 1,500 Lufthansa flights affect passengers traveling from and to Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf.
Lufthansa said it would rebook affected passengers on alternative airlines.
The 18 months of fractious negotiations have centered on Lufthansa’s plan to cut entitlements for pilots wanting to retire early and establish a cheaper salary structure at Eurowings.
Union concessions offered include increasing the average retirement age to 60.
“With our offer, we made it clear that the pilots are not against the necessary adjustments,” Wahl said.
Standard practice, says Spohr
Last Friday, Spohr told Reuters that over 1,000 pilots from within the Lufthansa group and outside had applied for jobs at Eurowings.
“To create an airline’s operating certificate in another country is something the other low-cost carriers do and we copied that model for our low-cost operation, he said.
Lufthansa is facing challenges from budget airlinessuch as Easyjet and Ryanair and Middle East-financed operators such as Etihad, which has a stake in another German-based operator, Air Berlin.