Germany faces new Lufthansa strike after rail stoppage

[Berlin] A leading German pilots' union has called a new 35-hour walkout at Lufthansa starting Monday in an ongoing dispute over retirement benefits after a weekend of train strikes.

The stoppage will target some passenger flights across Germany from Monday at 1100 GMT until just before midnight on Tuesday, the Vereinigung Cockpit union said in a statement.

Travellers in Germany have faced repeated strikes by pilots of airlines within the Lufthansa group, as well as a walkout by train drivers over the weekend.

"The Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) announces the start of further strikes for Monday, October 20," the statement said.

"Regrettably Lufthansa has not acted on the compromise proposals of VC after seven strikes now since April this year and is stonewalling," it added.

The union said it regretted the disruptions for passengers and called on Lufthansa to give up its "blockade attitude".

The stoppage will affect short- and medium-haul flights on Airbus 320 aircraft as well as Boeing 737 and Embraer planes, it added.

Lufthansa said late on Sunday that the strike would affect some 2,150 flights and more than 200,000 passengers, but that it had found enough willing pilots to ensure "a third" of the flights would be running.

Lufthansa pilots can currently take paid early retirement from the age of 55. They are fighting a plan by the airline to raise the minimum age and to involve pilots in the financing of their pensions.

The airline accused the union of trying to turn Germany into a "nation at standstill" with the eighth call to stop work in less than two months.

A successful economy cannot afford such strikes, Lufthansa said in a statement.

It highlighted that long-haul Lufthansa flights were not affected, nor services on companies in the group, including Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Germanwings, SWISS and Air Dolomiti.

Last week, pilots held a 12-hour strike at Germanwings, the low-cost airline belonging to Lufthansa.

Rail travellers also faced disruptions, cancellations and delays after the train drivers' union on Friday called their biggest stoppage since 2008.

The GDL union is demanding a five-percent wage hike and a shorter working week of 37 hours.

The train stoppages, which are due to run until 0200 GMT on Monday, came on a peak autumn holiday weekend, leaving about only one in three intercity trains running.

Deutsche Bahn said 4,000 people took part in the strike, mostly train drivers.

Berlin is working on legislation to stop small groups of employees from paralysing large parts of the country's infrastructure, such as rail and air travel. A draft law is expected in November. AFP

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