Berlin Warns Against Economic Effects of Lufthansa Strike | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 29.07.2008
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Berlin Warns Against Economic Effects of Lufthansa Strike

Some 4,000 ground personnel joined at Lufthansa joined the second day of wage strikes on Tuesday, July 29. The German airline cancelled 70 flights amid concerns that the strikes could damage the economy.

Lufthansa employees with Verdi flags at the Frankfurt airport

The strikes were expanded to include additional airports on Tuesday

Prolonged industrial action could hurt Germany's economy, which is already suffering from soaring energy prices, the global credit crunch and an overly strong euro, the government's tourism chief Ernst Hinsken said on Tuesday.

"Strikes such as those at Lufthansa could pose a serious risk to the German economy," he told the daily Passauer Neue Presse.

Most flights still running

Service was cancelled to domestic and European destinations for the second day on Tuesday, a spokesman said, but the grounded flights represented just three percent of those scheduled by the carrier. Long-haul flights were operating normally, he said.

A walk-out by ground maintenance personnel forced the cancellations.

About 5,000 maintenance, freight and catering staff stopped work on Monday in Frankfurt and Hamburg but few flights were disrupted on the first day. Berlin was added on Tuesday, with Stuttgart to follow later in the evening, thus affecting all of Lufthansa's locations in the country.

Verdi wants a 9.8 percent pay hike over a year for around 50,000 workers, while Lufthansa has offered 6.7 percent over 21 months and appealed for another round of negotiations.

Verdi has said it won't negotiate until Lufthansa comes back with a higher offer.

"We're prepared to keep the strikes going for a long time," said Verdi spokesman Helmut Reutter.

Hurting Lufthansa

A woman from behind in front of an airport departures board, wearing a t-shirt that reads: I am not on strike

Not all Lufthansa employees are supporting the strike

According to experts, prolonged strikes could cause heavy losses for the airlines, particularly due to a loss in business travelers, who tend to book spontaneously and choose higher-priced business or first class seats.

Tourists, on the other hand, "rebook and put up with delayed departures and arrivals," said aviation expert Cord Schellenberg, according to DPA news agency. "The most important thing is that they reach their destination."

Verdi said it was doing what it could to avoid inconveniencing travelers while it ratcheted up the pressure on Lufthansa.

"The goal of the strike is not to hinder passengers but to increase the cost to the company," Verdi's chief negotiator Erhard Ott said Monday, noting that ordering catering from other firms or docking planes in other hangars was "very pricey."

As the largest aircraft maintenance service provider in Germany, Lufthansa would likely have a difficult time finding replacements on the ground, industry experts said.

Ott added that Lufthansa had already seen a decline in reservations in recent weeks as wary passengers booked with other carriers.

The newspaper Die Welt quoted Verdi as saying the strike would cost Lufthansa five million euros ($7.9 million) a day.

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