Pilots union says no Lufthansa strikes until end-July

Reuters News
Posted: May 13, 2015 11:44 AM

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit said it was prepared to enter mediation with Lufthansa on a wide range of pay issues, trying to end a long-running dispute that has resulted in more than a dozen costly strikes.

Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) said on Wednesday it accepted Lufthansa's proposal for a mediation process, ruling out strike action until the end of July.

"No strikes are planned until then," a spokesman for Vereinigung Cockpit said. A spokesman for Lufthansa said the airline welcomed the union's decision.

Industry watchers had hoped the crash of a Germanwings plane in March, which evidence indicates was deliberately caused by the co-pilot, would encourage more harmony among Lufthansa staff and bring an end to the pay disputes. Germanwings is a subsidiary of Lufthansa.

Lufthansa said late last month it was prepared to enter mediation with VC on all outstanding pay issues, in order to bring an end to a row which has resulted in 15 strikes and cost it over 240 million euros in lost profit to the end of March.

The hangover from strikes earlier this year is set to cost a further 58 million euros in lost bookings in the second quarter, Lufthansa has said.

Along with a pay deal, management is trying to renegotiate retirement benefits for pilots. Pilots may currently take early retirement at the age of 55 and receive a portion of their pay before statutory pension payments start at 65.

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The union, which represents over 5,000 Lufthansa and Germanwings pilots, are also opposed to expansion of low cost unit Eurowings, fearing it will erode pay and jobs, and have previously called for mediation on this issue.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has said low-cost expansion is not up for debate and that the airline needs to lower costs in order to better compete with rivals such as Ryanair and easyJet.

(Reporting by Peter Maushagen and Victoria Bryan; editing by Susan Thomas)