Lufthansa pilots vote for strike

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Lufthansa pilots have voted for industrial action over a pay dispute that has been lingering on for over two years.

Nearly 96% of the approximately 5,400 pilots at Lufthansa, the airline’s cargo arm and low-cost subsidiary Germanwings took part in the ballot that pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit conducted after the airline called off a labour agreement about transitional salaries last year. That contract covers, for example, pay when pilots retire early or become medically unfit to fly.

However, the dispute also involves a new general pay agreement. The previous contract expired in May 2012 but has since remained in place as no fresh deal could be reached.

Some 99% of pilots voted for industrial action in regard to the transitional pay agreement. For the general remuneration dispute, the figure was 97% in favour.

Strikes must be expected, says Vereinigung Cockpit. However, notification of any walkout would be provided at least two days in advance, it adds.

While no industrial action is currently planned for the Easter holiday period, the head of the union’s wage-policy department, Ilona Ritter, says that could change if Lufthansa “challenge us”.

No negotiations are taking place between management and employees, but Lufthansa has now offered the union a date for discussions

The airline’s pilot wages have risen at lower rates than average German salaries over the last decade, says Vereinigung Cockpit. Regarding the transitional pay dispute, Ritter says the union will fight for the continuation of an agreement that allows pilots to “autonomously” leave their jobs with certain pay levels.

Lufthansa responds that while it wants to maintain an option for pilots to retire prematurely, it aims to establish new transitional pay rules. It adds that the future general pay agreement should be comparable with labour contracts that were reached with cabin and ground crew in 2012.