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Aviation

Lufthansa wage talks begin amid airline gloom

Lufthansa management and German labor union Verdi have opened wage negotiations for 33,000 staff at the German carrier. The touchy talks come as Lufthansa seeks to cut jobs and costs amid falling profits.

Verdi asked for a wage increase of 5.2 percent, a profit-sharing scheme and job guarantees for its members at the airline, according to members of the trade union speaking at the start of wage negotiations on Tuesday.

The labor union represents about 33,000 workers at Germany's largest airline, most of whom are logistical and technical personnel, but also some ground and cabin crew not affiliated to other trade unions.

"Lufthansa employees need stability and planning security in view of major cost-cutting at the airline," said Christine Behle, a senior Verdi official.

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Behle said the talks were burdened by management's announcement last week that Lufthansa would slash a substantial number of jobs at sites in Norderstedt, Hamburg and Cologne. In addition, staff at Lufthansa catering subsidiary LSG were faced with unacceptable demands for wage cuts, she said.

Under a major cost-cutting program, Lufthansa seeks to make 3,500 mostly administrative workers redundant - 2,500 of them based in Germany. Initiated last year, the program aims to boost the airline's annual operating profit to 2.3 billion euros ($3.1 billion) by 2015. However, 2012 operating profit slumped by about a third to just 524 million euros amid rising fuel costs and mounting competition from low-cost carriers.

In January, Lufthansa staff manager Stefan Lauer described Verdi's wage demand as unacceptable in view of Lufthansa's current economic situation. Management would enter the negotiations without a wage proposal, he said.

uhe/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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