Thursday's strike has hit German flag carrier Lufthansa in the middle of its busy holiday travel season.
Just days after ground and cabin personnel ended their strike, a new labor conflict started at German airline Lufthansa on Friday. At midnight, the 700 pilots for its CityLine subsidiary walked off the job in a 36-hour warning strike. Called by the Cockpit union, the strike caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights as well as delays.
The strike has hit all of the German cities that CityLine flies to, including important hubs Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin. A Lufthansa spokesperson told SPIEGEL ONLINE that around 360 of CityLine's scheduled flights had to be cancelled.
CityLine is a Lufthansa subsidiary that offers flights to domestic destinations in Germany as well as European cities -- generally with regional jet services to cities that don't have enough demand for larger Lufthansa aircraft to serve them. Flights on normal Lufthansa flights have not been effected by Thursday's walkout.
Still, Lufthansa officials expressed their frustration on Thursday over the latest strike. The airline's personnel director, Stefan Lauer, said the strikes created an imposition for customers and damage the company. A spokesman for the company told SPIEGEL ONLINE it is open to negotiations with the Cockpit union.
"We Are Demanding a Substantial Pay Rise"
In its most recent offer, Lufthansa said it would agree to raise the pay for of the close to 740 CityLine pilots by 3 percent, with backpay to July 1. In January, an additional 2.5 percent raise would kick in. For the period between January 2007 and July 2008, the company also offered a one-time bonus payment of 5,000 for each co-pilot and 7,000 ($7,734) for each captain. The wage agreement would have been effective for 18 months.
Officials at Cockpit rejected the offer. "CityLine pilots haven't been given a raise since January 2007," senior union official Ilona Ritter told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "After that much time, we are demanding a substantial pay rise." Ritter would not specify, however, precisely what the union is demanding. Talks between CityLine and the union collapsed in May and 99 percent of Cockpit's members voted to strike. The union called two strikes earlier this summer at CityLine and Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings -- one for 24 hours on July 7 and another on July 22 for 36 hours. The July strikes forced the cancellation of about 1,000 flights.
Cockpit's negotiations are not connected to a deal reached last Friday between Lufthansa and the Ver.di union, which represents ground, maintenance and cabin workers for the company's flagship carrier. Ver.di is currently voting on a wage deal with the airline for the 50,000 employees it represents.
Meanwhile, at Lufthansa's main airline, pilots are also threatening to strike in the coming days. Pilots are demanding they get a union representative appointed in an executive position inside the company. Lufthansa executives claim the warning strike is illegal and they are threatening to sue for damages in court of the pilots walk. A warning strike by the company's 3,500 pilots could lead to massive delays and chaos at German airports amidst the peak holiday travel season.
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