Germanwings pilots strike as Lufthansa row rumbles on

Fri Aug 29, 2014 7:09am EDT
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By Victoria Bryan

BERLIN (Reuters) - Pilots at Lufthansa's (LHAG.DE: Quote) budget carrier Germanwings staged a six-hour strike on Friday, disrupting travel plans of thousands of people returning from summer holidays and putting pressure on Lufthansa management in a pension scheme dispute.

Pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) wants Lufthansa to maintain an early retirement scheme that allows pilots to retire at 55 and still receive up to 60 percent of their pay until state pension payments kick in.

The airline argues that there is no need for the scheme, given rising life expectancy and a court ruling that pilots can now work until the age of 65.

The dispute is set against the backdrop of a Lufthansa overhaul to boost competitiveness against no-frills rivals and Gulf carriers, seeking to lift annual group operating profit to 2 billion euros in 2015, up from its forecast 1 billion in 2014.

A three-day nationwide strike by Lufthansa pilots in April over the same issue effectively grounded the airline and wiped 60 million euros ($79.04 million) off its first-half profit.

VC, which represents about 5,400 pilots across the Lufthansa group, said it could not rule out further action over the weekend or the coming week, but that it would give a day's notice of any strike.

"We can't rule out that it may come to strikes at Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo," spokesman Markus Wahl told Reuters TV, referring to Lufthansa's flagship brand and its freight unit.

Lufthansa shares were down 1.7 percent at 1059 GMT, the biggest faller on a 0.3 percent stronger DAX .GDAXI, hit by the dispute and concerns a volcano eruption in Iceland could affect aviation.   Continued...

Empty and closed gates of Lufthansa's German low-cost carrier Germanwings are seen at Berlin Tegel airport August 29, 2014.  REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch