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Lufthansa pilots begin 35-hour strike

Oct 20 2014 19:30

Berlin - Pilots at Lufthansa began a 35-hour strike on Monday, their eighth this year, to back demands to retain an early retirement scheme that the German flag carrier wants to cut.

Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the strikers, whose stoppage comes on the heels of a labour walkout on much of the German rail system.

"She hopes these conflicts will be settled quickly," said Merkel spokesman Georg Streiter.

Lufthansa said the initial stoppage would ground about 1 400 flights on its German and European network, disrupting travel for 200 000 passengers.

In a second stage, long-haul pilots will join the strike at 6 am German time (04:00 GMT) Tuesday, disrupting connections to Asia and elsewhere on Lufthansa's global route network for 18 hours. All the pilots will resume work after 12 midnight Tuesday (22:00 GMT).

Some flights went ahead with non-members of the Cockpit Union at the controls. The airline said most of its arrivals and departures from its main hub, Frankfurt, were cancelled, but about half of its takeoffs from its number-two airport, Munich, would lift off as scheduled.

The pilots are demanding retention of a scheme that allows them to retire before 60. The airline says the retirement age can be moved later, because - it says - piloting today is no longer as physically wearing as when the deal was put in place.

Early Monday, locomotive drivers resumed work after their two-day strike knocked out most surburban rail networks and two-thirds of long-distance trains operated by the main company, Deutsche Bahn. It was the third strike in two weeks by drivers.

DB, which carries 6 million passengers on a normal day, said Monday the strike cost it "tens of millions of euros" in lost fares and the costs of accommodating stranded travellers.

It disclosed an upsurge of graffiti attacks while its rolling stock had stayed parked all weekend long. In Berlin, 69 carriages on suburban trains resumed service Monday covered with spray-paint slogans.

From the point of view of the German government, both strikes were caused by a power struggle inside the German labour movement, with the Cockpit Union and GDL train drivers' union aiming to displace more moderate unions in their industries.

Merkel favours a law change that would restrict wage bargaining powers to broad-based, industry-wide unions.

The 5,400 pilots employed at Lufthansa, its budget offshoot Germanwings and Lufthansa Cargo have held out for special benefits which are not available to cabin crew or ground staff.

Europe's largest airline is battling to reduce costs in the face of stiff competition from budget airlines and emerging Middle East carriers.

The series of strikes on its network began in April.

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lufthansa  |  airlines
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