Lufthansa’s Eurowings cabin crew union calls off strikes planned for this week

The low-cost unit of the German flag carrier is at the centre of a flight attendant dispute over pay and conditions and unions are threatening further action this week.

People at a counter of Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings during a 24-hour strike at Cologne-Bonn airport, Germany last week. Unions are threatening more walkouts this week. Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters
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The cabin crew union UFO has called off planned walkouts at Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings for this week, the union said in a letter to members.

The union also called on Eurowings management to agree on next steps with the help of a mediator in the letter, seen by Reuters.

The latest talks on pay for Eurowings, a former regional unit that Lufthansa is combining with budget unit Germanwings, ended last night, with Eurowings saying the union had rejected a mediation offer.

Eurowings had faced more walkouts this week as a contract dispute with cabin crew intensified after the union rejected arbitration.

The two sides failed to reach an agreement in talks over the weekend as the UFO baulked at the low-cost unit’s offer, which included a pay increase of 7 per cent on average, Eurowings said. The carrier was mostly grounded by a strike on Thursday, causing more than 400 of 555 flights to be scrapped. The flight attendants had said they would halt work on two unspecified days this week unless a better offer was made.

“Evidently, the UFO is pursuing goals that have nothing to do with the open aspects of the contract negotiations,” said Joerg Beissel, Eurowings’ personnel chief said before the decision to call off the walkouts.

Unions have used contract disputes to disrupt plans by the Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr to cut costs to better compete with the likes of Ryanair and easyJet. Eurowings is at the centre of the effort, and Mr Spohr is pushing to expand the unit into Europe’s third-largest discount airline. Aside from the Eurowings cabin-crew feud, Lufthansa has yet to reach a deal with mainline pilots.

The UFO union spurred a 24-hour walkout at Eurowings on Thursday to push for higher pay and simultaneously called a stop at Lufthansa’s Germanwings unit, which flies under the Eurowings brand, over conditions for part-time workers. Eurowings called on the union to return to the negotiating table this week.

UFO is flexing its muscle amid competition with German services union Ver.di about representing cabin crews. Ver.di asked members at Eurowings to walk out last month in a protest that resulted in only a handful of cancellations.

* Agencies

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