October 23, 2014 / 10:40 AM / in 3 years

Pilots propose talks with Lufthansa over pay, retirement benefits

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) has proposed restarting talks with Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) over pay and early retirement benefits but does not rule out further strikes during the negotiations.

A general view of a ticket counter of German airlines Lufthansa at Duesseldorf airport October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The dispute has resulted in eight strikes at Lufthansa this year, the latest one lasting for 30 hours earlier this week and affecting thousands of passengers.

In a sign of movement in the row, the union has now proposed talks led by a mediator, it said in a letter seen by Reuters.

In response, Lufthansa said it was pleased that VC had signaled it wished to enter talks.

Neither side said when talks could start.

“We are pleased we’ve had contact with Lufthansa,” a spokesman for VC told Reuters. “But the message remains: we are ready to strike.”

The pilots and Lufthansa are negotiating over a scheme that allows pilots to retire at the age of 55 and still receive a portion of their pay until regular pension payments start in Germany.

Lufthansa wants to gradually increase the age at which pilots who started work with the airline from Jan 2014 can make use of the early retirement scheme. The pilots want the current scheme maintained for all pilots and not just those starting before 2014.

In addition, they are negotiating over pay increases for the contract period from May 2012, although the pilots say the strikes are mainly about the retirement benefits.

Lufthansa earlier this year put the cost of strikes this year at 70 million euros ($89 million), but analysts expect an updated figure and possibly new profit guidance for 2014 when it publishes third-quarter results on Oct. 30.

Reporting by Frank Siebelt; Writing by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Jonathan Gould and William Hardy

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