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Cabin crew union: Lufthansa staff to strike from Friday

Talks concerning retirement benefits between Lufthansa and UFO, a flight attendants' union, have failed. Another strike looms - and with it, Lufthansa's credibility looks set to take another hit.

An attempt to reach a last-minute bargain between Lufthansa management and the flight attendants' union UFO failed Thursday evening. The union broke off talks with the airline. An eight-day strike now looms - it looks set to begin on Friday at some point after 12 noon, according to a Thursday statement by UFO chief Nicoley Baublies.

"There is no option anymore that would allow us to prevent a strike," Baublies said. However, to respect the interests of clients, there will be no strike action before 12 noon Friday, he added: "What happens after that, we'll announce tomorrow morning."

If UFO carries out its threat to strike for a whole week, it would be the longest strike in the company's history. When and where Lufthansa flights will be canceled remains uncertain - the union has said it will only reveal that information shortly beforehand.

Lufthansa announced that it would publish a special flight schedule on Thursday evening in case the union takes strike action. The company is getting quite skilled at managing around strikes - the most recent walkout was in September, when Lufthansa pilots walked off the job.

Nicoley Baublies in Mörfelden-Walldorf

Nicoley Baublies, head of the UFO cabin crew union, is unhappy with Lufthansa

Lufthansa subsidiaries not affected

Lufthansa has several airline subsidiaries flying under other brands, including Germanwings, Eurowings, Swiss and Austrian Airlines. None of these airlines will be affected by the strike.

Lufthansa said it had offered to consider all the demands put forward by the UFO union for transitional and retirement benefits for employees, in exchange for the union calling off the strike - but the union had refused the offer.

But Baublies said Lufthansa management's statement was "an unbelievable effrontery," claiming the airline had taken up the union's proposals for discussion only in pro-forma terms, and had emphasized that the union's demands were far too expensive.

UFO is demanding improved retirement benefits as well as improved transitional benefits to bridge the time between employees' actual retirement and the time when state retirement benefits kick in. The negotiations will affect the financial security of about 19,000 Lufthansa stewardesses and stewards.

In Spring 2014, the pilots had gone on strike and shut down the airline's flights entirely for three days - the longest Lufthansa strike to date. There are various other negotiations with other employee unions going on as well, which could lead to more walkouts in future. Among the conflicts in the offing: Lufthansa plans to turn its regional airline subsidiary Eurowings into a discount airline. The pilots' union "Vereinigung Cockpit" has mounted the barricades in opposition to the plan - it has staged 13 walkouts since Spring 2014.

In addition, the service workers' Verdi union is attempting to come to an agreement with Lufthansa over wage packets for 33,000 employees. Talks over this issue have not been fruitful, and further talks were postponed as of Thursday.

nz/hg (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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