November 6, 2017 / 11:48 AM / a year ago

Pilots' union calls for better conditions at Lufthansa's Eurowings

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German pilots union is calling on Lufthansa’s Eurowings (LHAG.DE) to offer better conditions, rejecting a labor agreement that would have allowed the budget carrier to quickly take on former Air Berlin AB1.DE staff on German contracts.

People line up behind a barrier tape of Lufthansa's budget airlines Eurowings during a 24-hour strike over pay and working conditions at Cologne-Bonn airport, Germany October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Lufthansa is taking over large parts of insolvent rival Air Berlin, and plans to grow Eurowings as a result. It is taking on around 1,700 staff from two former Air Berlin units, and also needs to hire a further 1,300 crew for additional planes.

But Eurowings and its parent group have come under fire from some unions for offering former Air Berlin staff contracts with its Austria-based Eurowings Europe unit where conditions aren’t as good as for staff on German collective labor agreements.

Eurowings has since said it wants to grow Eurowings Germany beyond the 23 planes it currently has and tentatively agreed last month with pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) to offer jobs to former Air Berlin staff and from other airlines on German collective labor agreements.

VC said on Monday, however, the deal still wasn’t good enough.

“Affected pilots should not be forced to accept conditions that are in some cases far below those of rivals,” VC board member Joerg Handwerg said in a statement.

Eurowings said it “absolutely regretted” the rejection from the union.

“As long as VC continues to block a deal, we are left with no choice but to take on staff via Eurowings Europe,” a spokesman said, adding employees starting there would be offered pay similar to that of staff on German contracts.

With a battle on for pilots in Europe, some airlines are offering more attractive contracts to lure crews for quick expansion.

For example, Air Berlin Captain Dirk Sommerfeld told Reuters last month he planned to accept a job offer from Ryanair (RYA.I) instead of Eurowings.

“Ryanair is offering better conditions and I can stay in Berlin,” he said, ahead of watching Air Berlin’s final flight.

Britain’s easyJet (EZJ.L) is also taking on some Air Berlin operations in Berlin and is racing to hire and re-train staff.

Its plans to take on 1,000 former Air Berlin staff have been welcomed by union Verdi, which says staff can expect comparable income conditions. Verdi represents pilots at easyJet in Germany and the two sides agreed terms on Friday.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Tom Sims and Mark Potter

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