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Lufthansa Pilots Vote To Strike

Lufthansa pilots voted Thursday to authorize a series of weekly strikes against the German flag carrier, in an attempt to win higher wages.

Members of Vereinigung Cockpit, the union representing some 4,200 Lufthansa pilots, said 96 percent voted in favor of the strikes. The first work stoppage will take place from midnight Thursday (6 p.m. EDT) until noon Friday (6 a.m. EDT).

The union said that the daylong strikes will continue for four weeks unless an agreement is reached.

The pilots are asking for average wage increases of 30-35 percent. They want the airline to recognize the fact they accepted below-industry increases during the early 1990's when the airline's finances were stretched.

Lufthansa has returned with offers ranging from 10 to 16.7 percent.

The pilots announced a strike vote after negotiations with the airline broke down in early April. A one-day strike in late March halted 116 flights and delayed around 10,000 passengers at airports throughout Germany. It was the fist strike since 1996.

The strike is another blow to the carrier. Last week the company posted a 94 percent plunge in first-quarter operating profit due to higher fuels costs and investments in electronic commerce.

Chief Financial Officer, Karl-Ludwig Kley said operating profit for all of 2001 would likely come in flat only if it reaches an "acceptable agreement with the trade union in a reasonable time."

Operating profit in the first quarter tumbled to 5 million euros ($4.5 million) from 99 million euros last year even as sales rose. The airline had claimed last August it had successfully hedged against the impact of fuel costs.

Lufthansa is not the only airline facing labor problems at the beginning of the peak summer flying season. Delta Airlines pilots are voting to whether or not to accept a new contract. United Airlines flight attendants are threatening a strike if a deal goes through to purchase U.S. Airways. And U.S. regional carrier, Comair pilots are currently out on strike.

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