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Lufthansa, pilots seek to avert strike with pay talks

A Lufthansa Airbus A340-300 is pictured after take off from the airport in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. - AFP
A Lufthansa Airbus A340-300 is pictured after take off from the airport in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. - AFP

FRANKFURT: German airline Lufthansa is to hold confidential talks with Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), the trade union representing its pilots, after striking a deal with ground staff last week, both sides said on Monday.

"We have set four dates over the weeks ahead to see how far we are apart," VC representative Andreas Pinheiro said in a podcast. VC was seeking a negotiated solution after balloting its members on strike action, he said.

Lufthansa confirmed the talks to be held with no communication to the outside world. Strike action is to be suspended for the duration of the talks.

Lufthansa and VC have already conducted six rounds of talks without success. Lufthansa has accepted a VC demand for 5.5 per cent higher pay for the rest of this year, but no agreement has been reached on an automatic inflation-indexed rise from 2023 or on changes to the rate structure.

Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr has proposed reserving a certain number of aircraft as before for pilots of the core company.

The company had earlier announced the termination of an agreement covering 325 planes up to the end of 2021, while shifting more traffic to its subsidiaries with lower operating costs. These include Eurowings Discover, a long-haul leisure carrier, and Lufthansa Cityline 2, which is currently being set up.

Lufthansa and the Verdi union reached a pay deal with ground staff last week covering some 20,000 employees.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish pilots with the Scandinavian carrier SAS have voted in favour of a new collective wage agreement, ending the threat of fresh strikes.

The pilot union members cast ballots in their respective countries and approved the agreement with the airline's management, the unions announced on Saturday.

In Denmark, 89 per cent of the pilots entitled to vote took part, with 93 per cent voting in favour. The unions initially left open how large the majority was in Norway and Sweden. The overall result is expected to be released next week.

After tough negotiations, the unions and SAS reached an agreement on July 19 on a five-and-a-half-year collective agreement.

It includes a 5 per cent pay cut for pilots and longer hours in the peak summer season. But hundreds of pilots laid off during the coronavirus pandemic will be rehired by the company.

The Scandinavian airline was hit by a two-week strike by cockpit crews in July, costing the company millions and cancelling more than 3,700 flights. -- dpa

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