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Lufthansa pilots to strike Wednesday in walkout over pay

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Deutsche Lufthansa AG's pilots will take strike action Wednesday in their long-running dispute over pay.

[FRANKFURT] Deutsche Lufthansa AG's pilots will take strike action Wednesday in their long-running dispute over pay.

The walkout will affect short- and long-haul services from Germany operated by Lufthansa's namesake brand, the Vereinigung Cockpit union said in a statement Monday. It will come the day after action by flight attendants at the group's Eurowings division.

The pilot strike is the latest in a two-year standoff over remuneration, working conditions and moves to turn Eurowings into a fully fledged discount carrier with a bigger share of flights. The last walkout by flight crew in September 2015 was halted after a court ruled it an illegal effort to influence corporate strategy, and more recent talks have been restricted to pay issues.

"The permanent refusal of management to also give cockpit crews a reasonable pay rise is not acceptable," Vereinigung Cockpit board member Joerg Handwerg said in the release. The union warned last week that talks had broken down and dismissed Lufthansa's plans to bring in an arbitrator.

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Pilots are seeking a raise totaling about 20 per cent for the years spanning 2012, when their current deal expired, through 2017 - an average annual increase of about 3.7 per cent. Lufthansa has offered 2.5 per cent, or 0.38 per cent a year, through 2018.

Lufthansa, which has frozen pilot hiring until a new pay deal is agreed, said a strike "is not the right way" to go, especially given the offer of mediation. It pledged to re-book customers with other airlines where possible.

Chief executive officer Carsten Spohr has been dogged by unrest since taking charge in 2014. While accords with cabin crew and ground staff will ease a towering pension deficit, he has also failed to secure terms with flight attendants at Eurowings, leading to walkouts at the discount arm.

Protests were set for 5am to 8pm Tuesday after the Ver.di union called for walkouts among members in Dusseldorf and Hamburg. In Hamburg, more than one-third of Eurowings arrivals and departures were cancelled as a result, the city's airport said in a statement early on Tuesday. Delays may also occur, while further cancellations cannot be ruled out, it said.

Strikes forced Lufthansa to cancel more than 16,000 flights in 2014 and 2015, cutting 463 million euros (S$698.7 million) from its operating profit.

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