Lufthansa, cabin staff agree to arbitration, no strikes before June


Frankfurt (AFP)

Passengers flying with German airline Lufthansa can hope for a reduced risk of strikes at least until June, after management and cabin crews agreed to take their current dispute to arbitration on Friday.

Lufthansa and the cabin crews' union UFO "have agreed to arbitration," the airline said in a statement.

"Arbitration talks will run until June 30. During this period, a commitment has been made not to take part in any industrial action," the statement said.

Nevertheless, the strike risk has not been banished altogether, because Lufthansa is also involved in a separate dispute with its pilots' union Cockpit.

Cabin staff staged the longest walkout in Lufthansa's history with a seven-day stoppage in November, during which 4,700 flights scrapped and 550,000 passengers grounded.

The dispute erupted nearly two years ago when management sought to cut costs, saying the current retirement system was too expensive to maintain.

The union however wants the status quo to remain.

The former Social Democrat president of the regional state of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck, will arbitrate the talks.

But the two sides struck a deal for a 2.2-percent pay rise for Lufthansa's 19,000 flight attendants from January 2016, as well as a one-off payment of 3,000 euros ($3,250) for last year, the airline said.

The arbitration will now focus on early retirement provisions and working conditions.

At the end of November, Lufthansa reached a wage deal for its 30,000 ground staff.

Lufthansa, which also owns Swiss and Austrian Airlines, is battling to bring down costs in a bid to survive competition from low-cost rivals such as EasyJet and Ryanair.