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Lufthansa cabin crew begin 24-hour strike: company

07 september 2012, 17:57
A 24-hour strike called by Lufthansa cabin crew at German airports got under way Friday, the company said -- the latest in a series of work stoppages in a dispute over pay and conditions, AFP reports.

"There has been contact but no negotiations" with the cabin crew union UFO, and the action which started at midnight (2200 GMT) went ahead as planned, said the statement.

A spokesman for Germany's top airline said the strike would make itself felt in the morning as there were no overnight flights scheduled.

Lufthansa had cancelled around 50 flights Thursday ahead of the planned walkout by cabin crew at six major airports on Friday as the long-running dispute escalated.

As in previous walkouts, it was primarily domestic and European services that were affected, but a number of intercontinental flights were also hit, such as New York-Frankfurt and Hong Kong-Munich, according to the carrier's website.

Late Wednesday, the cabin staff's labour union, the Independent Flight Attendants' Organisation or UFO, said its members would stage a 24-hour stoppage Friday at the airports of Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Duesseldorf and Stuttgart in an escalation of their ongoing pay dispute.

Other much shorter walkouts of eight hours last week and earlier this week have grounded hundreds of flights and affected thousands of passengers.

Lufthansa has therefore said it will cancel 1,200 flights, or two-thirds of its total 1,800 flights on Friday.

After the walkout, UFO "will give Lufthansa some time to review its intransigent attitude," union representative Birgit Weinreich said shortly before the start of the strike.

The airline's CEO Christoph Franz, interviewed by ZDF television, acknowledged that he had "not anticipated a movement of this scale" but described it as "disproportionate."

According to its latest demands, the union -- which represents some two-thirds of Lufthansa's 18,000 cabin crew -- is seeking a five-percent pay increase backdated to April after three years of wage freezes.

It is also opposed to the use of temporary cabin crew on Lufthansa flights.

"We're prepared to go to mediation on the issue of pay hikes. But negotiations cannot include the use of temporary staff," a Lufthansa spokesman told AFP.

The airline already faces headwinds because of rising fuel prices and fierce competition.

A 2009 strike by cabin crew cost Lufthansa tens of millions of euros.

In February, Frankfurt airport's apron control staff -- traffic controllers who guide aircraft on the tarmac -- walked off the job over demands for higher pay.

According to Peter Oppitzhauser, an analyst at Credit Agricole Chevreux quoted by Dow Jones Newswires, the first two days of walkouts have already knocked 2.0 percent off Lufthansa's annual operating result, which is seen at around 500 million euros this year.

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