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Lufthansa Struggles to Get Back on Track After 1-Day Strike

A one day-warning strike ground Lufthansa operations to a near halt Wednesday, further straining the movement of goods and cancelling more than 1,000 passenger flights in Germany.

United Services Union, also known as Ver.di, called for the strike of Deutsche Lufthansa ground crews amid a contract dispute involving some 20,000 employees. The decision to strike came after a failed round of negotiations July 13 and occurred in the lead up to the next round of talks set for Aug. 3-4.

The call for the strike was not isolated to the company’s passenger flight operations, but also included subsidiaries such as Lufthansa Cargo, along with logistics, engineering and operational services.

The strike impacted all of Lufthansa’s locations, including its Frankfurt headquarters, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin.

The day-long work stoppage further exacerbated a labor shortage and comes as other strike actions in Europe have restricted cargo movement. Dockworkers in Germany, also represented by Ver.di, conducted a 48-hour warning strike earlier this month that caused Maersk to halt rail, road and ocean operations for the duration of the work stoppage.

Ver.di vice chair and negotiator for the Lufthansa contract Christine Behle cited an ongoing worker shortage and inflation as added pressures on employees.

“They urgently need more money and they need relief for themselves and for the passengers,” Behle said in a statement outlining the reason for the strike. “The employer offer at the front and back is not enough for this.”

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Behle went on to ask passengers impacted by flight cancellations due to the strike for their understanding, blaming the disruption on Lufthansa “mismanagement.”

Lufthansa said it is offering an 18-month contract, effective July 1, with an extra 150 euros ($153.10) per month for this year, followed by an additional 100 euros monthly ($102.06) at the start of next year. A 2 percent pay hike beginning in July 2023 would be contingent on the company’s earnings results. The minimum wage would be boosted to 13 euros  ($13.27) per hour beginning Oct. 1.

The union is calling for a 9.5 percent base salary increase, with a minimum of 350 euros ($357.22) monthly on a 12-month term. Hourly wages would have a floor of 13 euros ($13.27) per hour in the union’s proposal. Ver.di called the 2 percent contingency suggested for 2023 “a blank check” that created uncertainty for employees.

“The early escalation of a previously constructive collective bargaining round is causing enormous damage,” Lufthansa chief human resources officer and labor director Michael Niggemann said. “It affects our passengers in particular, who are impacted during the peak travel season. And it is putting an additional heavy strain on our employees in an already difficult phase for air traffic.”

The executive went on to say the strike’s occurrence during a busy time for air travel was “no longer proportionate.”

Lufthansa estimated 134,000 passengers total were affected the day of the strike, with another 7,000 impacted just prior to the start of the actual work stoppage. The airline said 678 flights were canceled in Frankfurt and 345 in Munich on Wednesday.

The company said the impacts could cause additional delays through Friday as it worked on returning operations to normal.