Softening of stances in Lufthansa cabin crew standoff

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Lufthansa cabin crew have delayed their decision over strike action until 28 August, after the airline made a surprise return to the negotiating table yesterday (22 August) without the precondition of being able to outsource flight attendants on its European network.

Talks between the carrier and flight attendant union UFO had broken down last week after 13 months, with the two sides failing to agree on how cabin crew will be employed when Lufthansa's short-haul operations are merged with its low-cost subsidiary Germanwings next year.

While UFO wants to use cabin crew employed by Lufthansa for combined operations under the 'direct4U' project - which the union supports in principle - the airline wants to have the option of using staff from external sources.

Lufthansa made an offer yesterday, but this was exclusively based on pay levels and did not cover wider employment conditions. UFO described the move as a delaying tactic, because salary levels are the only area which the flight attendants can legally stage a strike over.

The union says Lufthansa's proposal was "purely a cost-cutting package with demands, as expected, and could thus not be negotiated".

However, the airline also sent UFO a letter admitting that there had been "misunderstandings and missed opportunities" on both sides in arriving at a "big solution". According to UFO, the term refers to an agreement without crew outsourcing, jobs cuts and the use of temporary staff - the union's central demands.

Lufthansa's letter makes an appeal to use a "potentially irretrievable chance" to return to the table now and find a solution based on "proposals from both sides".

The discussions will continue until 28 August, when UFO says it will make a final decision about concrete industrial action.

Lufthansa declined to provide any details on the negotiations, saying only that it expects an agreement as a result of the renewed discussions.