Lufthansa, cabin crew resume contact over strikes
Frankfurt, September 7, 2012
The union representing striking cabin crew at Lufthansa said it was open for talks at the weekend after the German airline renewed contact in a bitter row over pay and conditions that led to a 24-hour countrywide stoppage on Friday.
UFO head Nicoley Baublies said the union had not planned any further action beyond Friday. "We hope that this will mark a turning point," he told Reuters at Frankfurt airport, Lufthansa's home base.
He later told a German television station Friday could well be the last day of strikes, which have so far resulted in hundreds of cancelled flights and cost Lufthansa over 10 million euros ($12.6 million).
Lufthansa is under pressure not to give in to UFO's demands for 5 percent pay increases and guarantees against outsourcing as it tries to sharply cut costs in a plan to improve annual earnings by 1.5 billion euros by 2014.
It has refused to improve on its offer of 3.6 percent more pay in exchange for longer hours, and has also said it does not see much point to calling in a mediator, which under German law would bring an end to the strikes.
"The first contact is a signal, not more," a spokesman for Lufthansa said, declining to give any details.
The two sides have been negotiating for 13 months and talks broke down last week, with the union starting strike action at Frankfurt airport last Friday, before widening it to Munich and Berlin on Tuesday this week.
Lufthansa said it hoped to be able to operate on Friday around half of the approximately 1,800 flights it usually carries out per day, more than previously forecast.
After the 24-hour, Germany-wide strike was announced earlier this week, the airline had said it would probably cancel around two thirds of its flights.
Unlike previous strikes, where the union gave only six hours' notice of the location and duration, Lufthansa has had time to prepare for the latest action.
That means Frankfurt airport, Germany's busiest, was on Friday relatively quiet and spared the long queues and crowds of stressed passengers seen last week. – Reuters
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