Tue, 29 May 2001



FRANKFURT (AP): Mediation talks between Lufthansa and disgruntled pilots began Monday, as the two sides tried to end an ongoing pay dispute that has triggered two disruptive pilots' strikes.

Neither side would say where the talks are taking place or what the haggling points would be. Rekindled attempts at a settlement came as Germany's umbrella group for organized labor warned that a special deal shouldn't be cut just for pilots.

Europe's No. 2 airline and the pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit called in mediator Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a former German foreign minister, after talks broke down last Tuesday. No deadline has been set for Genscher to find a solution.

The pilots, who have been pushing for a big raise since February, pledged to interrupt their weekly strikes during arbitration. They have staged two 24-hour strikes this month, forcing Lufthansa to cancel hundreds of flights.

The German Labor Union Federation criticized the pilots' union for its tough negotiating tactics on Monday. Federation representative Ursula Engelen-Kefer told ZDF television the pilots' high demands undermine solidarity with other unions which typically massage more moderate deals from employers.

Engelen-Kefer also criticized the airline for agreeing to negotiate a contract with pilots separately, instead of together with engineers, mechanics and cabin crews as part of an industry- wide settlement.

Pilots are demanding a 24-percent wage increase to achieve parity with competitors. The airline said its last offer amounted to a 30.3 percent raise - including performance-based pay - in the first year of a four-year contract.

Excluding performance-based pay, Lufthansa said its offer would boost salaries 13.6 percent.