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Deutsche Lufthansa AG is facing its longest-ever strike after flight attendants rejected the airline’s latest offer in a long-running dispute over savings efforts aimed at weathering competition from low-cost rivals such as Ryanair.
Cabin crew are set to halt work in the afternoon on Friday, the UFO labor union said in a statement Thursday, without specifying the exact time or the routes and airports to be targeted. A Lufthansa spokesman had no immediate comment.
Lufthansa “didn’t present a better offer,” Nicoley Baublies, the head of UFO, said in the statement. “There are now no more options to avoid tomorrow’s strike.”
Europe’s second-largest airline is seeking to hold back spending to sustain earnings while competing with European discount airlines and full-service rivals from the Middle East. The flight attendants’ dispute mirrors one between Lufthansa and its pilots, whose strikes came to an end in September after a German court ruled the actions were an illegal protest against corporate plans to expand a low-cost unit.
The union had set a deadline of 5 p.m. in Frankfurt to receive a revised proposal from Lufthansa on pension benefits, but rejected the alternatives proposed by the company. The union had earlier said the protest would continue through Nov. 13 if an agreement wasn’t reached by its deadline.
Lufthansa on its website said flights by its CityLine, Germanwings, Eurowings, Air Dolomiti, Austrian and Swiss units as well as by Brussels Airlines are not affected by the walkout. The carrier’s main airport hubs are in Frankfurt and Munich.
Cabin crews at Lufthansa have only once before staged a large-scale walkout, when three days of strikes in 2012 cost the carrier 33 million euros ($39 million) as 1,500 flights were scrapped. That compares with the 352 million euros in costs and 9,700 cancellations that a series of pilot strikes have generated since last year.
The 2012 flight attendants’ contract dispute was eventually solved through arbitration. This time, UFO has said that arbitration and other sessions aimed at resolving the conflict have failed to produce results. The union threatened in June to walk out for almost three months before returning to the negotiating table.
UFO has agreed to a switch of Lufthansa’s pension system to a defined-contribution program from defined benefits. The airline said this week that the union is seeking to maintain payments at previous levels, while Lufthansa wants employees to work more years to reach the figure.
This article was written by Richard Weiss from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.