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Lufthansa ground staff strike, most flights cancelled

April 22, 2013, Berlin, Ger. - Ground staff at Lufthansa, Germany's biggest airline, walked off the job Monday on a one-day strike that prompted the company to cancel most of the day's scheduled flights in advance and left it complaining of "excessive'' union tactics.


April 22, 2013
Carey Fredericks

The strike by airline technicians and service personnel across Germany started in the early hours. Lufthansa moved in advance to head off chaos, announcing on Saturday that it was cancelling almost all scheduled short-haul flights and the majority of long-haul services.

In all, the airline planned to operate only 32 of more than 1,700 scheduled flights.

The ver.di union announced the "warning strike'" – a tactic commonly used to raise pressure in wage talks – on Friday. Lufthansa last week rejected its demand for wage increases of 5.2 per cent over the next year and job guarantees, countering with a complex offer that foresees smaller raises over a 29-month period. Ver.di argued that the offer would mean wages falling in real terms.

Lufthansa is trying to cut costs to cope with high fuel prices as well as vigorous competition from European discount carriers and the big Gulf airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways. Last year, the airline and a union representing cabin crews called in an arbitrator to settle a pay dispute after a series of short-term stoppages.

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Lufthansa charged that ver.di, Germany's biggest service workers' union, was motivated by a desire to shore up its position in an increasingly fragmented union landscape in which smaller groups representing individual professions have become increasingly powerful. Monday's strike followed a smaller walkout last month.

"This time it is a strike . . . with a massive impact, completely excessive, that has only one aim – to position itself as a union at Lufthansa against many other unions and groups,'' Lufthansa's chief personnel officer, Stefan Lauer, told ARD television. He put the number of passengers affected at 150,000.

Lauer complained that "we as Lufthansa now have to suffer strikes every three months,'' often by unions representing non-Lufthansa workers such as air traffic controllers and airport security staff.