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Lufthansa staff begin one-day nationwide strike

Lufthansa cabin crew have begun a 24-hour nationwide strike in a dispute over pay. The walkout began at midnight on Friday and has prompted the cancellation of some 1,200 scheduled flights.

At midnight on Friday a spokesman for German airline Lufthansa confirmed that the one-day strike action had begun, adding that it would continue until midnight local time on Saturday.

The walkout is expected to cause chaos for travelers across Germany with 1,200 of 1,800 flights cancelled at airports in Frankfurt am Main, Munich, Düsseldorf, Berlin-Tegel, Hamburg and Stuttgart.

The Independent Flight Attendants' Organization (UFO) called the action on Wednesday, one day after its members staged eight-hour walkouts at three key German airports. Tuesday's strike prompted the cancellation of almost 350 flights at airports in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.  In further strike action nearly 200 flights were axed at Frankfurt last Friday after a localized walkout.

UFO has been negotiating for a pay increase for 13 months, following three years of stagnant wages. The trade union wants a five-percent increase backdated to January; Lufthansa has so far offered 3.5 percent.

The union is also seeking promises from Lufthansa not to use temporary staff on flights and to scale back plans for outsourcing labor. The airline's intention to establish a domestic budget airline is also a bone of contention.

In an interview with German broadcaster ZDF on Thursday, Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz criticized the strike, describing it as "grossly disproportionate". "We did not expect it to be on a scale like this," he said.

ccp/ipj (AFP, dpa)