Lufthansa workers have begun an early morning airport strike, causing massive disruptions to domestic flights. Union members are walking out across Germany's airports in a bid for a pay raise and better job security.
German carrier Lufthansa canceled around 700 flights for Thursday in anticipation of a massive strike across the country's main air traffic hubs.
The majority of domestic flights would not run "due to announced strikes of Lufthansa staff at the airports Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne as well as several other locations on March 21, between 5 a.m. and midday (0400-1100 UTC)," the carrier said on its website.
However, Lufthansa did expect long-haul flights to operate on schedule. The strike was being observed as planned, German workers union Verdi said on Thursday morning.
Germany's airport federation ADV responded to the walkout critically.
"Our passengers need reliability. At this point, we have to anticipate strikes every day. This uncertainty is harmful to airports and the image of the air transportation," ADV's CEO, Ralph Beisel, told news agency DPA.
In the latest round of collective bargaining, Verdi has demanded Lufthansa raise salaries by 5.2 percent and agree to protect its employees against layoffs.
The negotiations have focused on some 33,000 workers in the divisions Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa-Systems and Lufthansa Service Group (LSG).
"The reductions and work hour increases are a provocation that has led to a great deal of unrest and irritation among Lufthansa employees," Verdi board member Christine Behle told Reuters news agency.
The air transport company reported late last week that it would aim to slightly raise its operating profit throughout 2013, after booking 524 million euros ($687.6 million) in the previous year. Under that scheme, it would seek to save some 740 million euros, after putting aside 618 million euors in 2012.
Included in the reductions were plans to cut at least 700 jobs in the next few years.
Lufthansa made a point of stressing there was no alternative to the current financial consolidation source due, in large part, to the cost of fuel and the need to update its aircraft. In 2012, the company paid 7.4 billion euros for fuel alone and expects to pay at least 7.2 billion euros this year.
kms/hc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)