Pilots at Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest airline, have overwhelmingly backed a strike to press for higher pay, their union said on Sunday.
“This is a signal that cannot be ignored,” the pilots’ union, Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) said in a statement.
The risk that Lufthansa’s planes could be grounded has increased, but the result of the consultation “does not automatically mean strike action will be taken”, it added.
The union said it would immediately reopen negotiations with the management, currently at a stalemate, “with even more support” from its members.
Lufthansa has around 5,500 pilots in its passenger and freight operations. VC is the only union representing them.
Although the vote does not make a pilots’ strike a certainty, it is a signal that action could take place should Lufthansa take constructive steps, news agency Reuters cites VC board member Marcel Groels as saying.
“We are showing we are ready to talk,” Groels said.
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The vote gave a majority of 97.6 percent in favour of a strike by passenger service pilots and 99.3 percent for cargo pilots. Turnout was around 95 percent of the membership.
The pilots are demanding a 5.5-percent rise in their salaries this year, followed by an automatic indexing to inflation.
It also wants a uniform pay structure for all airline staff with the Lufthansa group, which includes Eurowings as well as Lufthansa itself.
Strikes would be possible if the current negotiations on pay and conditions fail. In this case, the pilots could start industrial action in mid-August, during the holiday season.
The pilots’ union vote comes three days after strike action by Lufthansa ground staff, which caused 1,000 flights to be cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday, affecting more than 130,000 Lufthansa passengers.
Further strikes by Lufhansa ground staff also remain on the table, given that the next round of collective bargaining with their union, Verdi, is scheduled to take place on August 3rd and 4th in Frankfurt.
More ground staff strikes could be called if an agreement isn’t reached. The union wants a 9.5-percent pay rise, or at least €350 per month. It also wants a minimum hourly wage of €13 for staff.