New Lufthansa pilots' strike to begin Monday: union

A display showing cancelled flights due to a strike of pilots of German airline Lufthansa is pictured at the airport in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on Oct 21, 2014. A leading German pilots' union has called a fresh walkout at Lufthansa s
A display showing cancelled flights due to a strike of pilots of German airline Lufthansa is pictured at the airport in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on Oct 21, 2014. A leading German pilots' union has called a fresh walkout at Lufthansa starting Monday, Dec 1, in an ongoing dispute with the airline over retirement benefits. -- PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (Reuters, AFP) - A leading German pilots' union has called a fresh walkout at Lufthansa starting Monday in an ongoing dispute with the airline over retirement benefits.

The dispute, over proposed changes to an early retirement scheme for pilots that was developed decades ago, has resulted in repeated strikes this year, affecting thousands of passengers of Germany’s largest airline.

The VC union said the Germany-wide strike would last from midday (7pm Singapore time) on Monday to 2359 CET on Tuesday for short- and medium-haul flights, as well as from 0300 CET (10am Singapore time) to 2359 CET on Tuesday for long-haul flights. Pilots flying for Lufthansa Cargo will also strike from 0300 CET to 2359 CET on Tuesday. Flights of budget arm Germanwings are not affected.

Lufthansa said the strike was completely disproportionate and called for an immediate resumption of talks. It said it made concessions in recent talks, including a 5 percent pay rise, but reiterated that it would not accept a demand that new pilots, as well as those already with the company, should be able to retire at 55.

Eight walkouts by staff this year wiped 160 million euros (S$260 million) off the carrier’s operating profit, adding to pressure from a stuttering global economy and increased competition.

Lufthansa, which last month lowered its profit guidance for 2015 for the second time this year, is expanding low-cost operations to better compete with budget carriers and Gulf rivals and to outflank the pilots’ union.

Lufthansa plans to use other pilots from within the group who are not on expensive collective labour agreements to staff tourist routes, where the brand, which usually focuses on business travellers, is trying to reduce costs.

Passenger transport in Germany has also been disrupted by train drivers’ strikes this year. The latest walkout earlier this month thwarted many Germans’ plans to travel by rail to celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall.

Like the pilots, train drivers have yet to reach a deal with their employers.