UPDATE: Lufthansa strike called off as pilots in Germany reach wage deal

Pilots at German airline Lufthansa have called off a planned strike later this week following a last-minute deal in wage negotiations with the carrier, their union Cockpit said Tuesday.

A departure board in Munich airport shows cancelled Lufthansa flights on September 2nd.
A departure board in Munich airport shows cancelled Lufthansa flights on September 2nd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

The pilots of both passenger and cargo aircraft were due to begin their industrial action from Wednesday, but “an agreement has been reached,” said a spokesman from Cockpit, adding that the walkout “would therefore be cancelled”.

Hours before, pilots flying passengers planes had said they would walk out for two days, while the industrial action for those operating cargo flights was set to last a day longer. 

Faced with the threat of new chaos, Lufthansa’s management said on Tuesday that it would put forward a “better offer” to the union at urgent talks during the day. The new offer was accepted. 

No details were provided as yet about the wage deal, and Lufthansa has declined comment.

But the pilot union has been seeking a 5.5 percent wage increase by the end of the year, compensation for inflation and adjustments on its salary grid.

Lufthansa has said the entire package sought by Cockpit would raise pilot personnel costs by 40 percent or €900 million.

It comes after the airline was forced to cancel almost all its flights in Germany on Friday due to a pilots’ walk-out, affecting 130,000 passengers.

READ ALSO: How Lufthansa pilot strike is affecting travel in Germany

It’s been a summer of chaos at airports and airlines due to staff shortages following the lifting of Covid restrictions and a surge in demand. 

Tense pay talks

With inflation soaring, collective salary bargaining is expected to be tense in the coming months across Europe.

Union IG Metall has called a demonstration on Saturday to kick off the collective wage bargaining for the metals and electrical industry.

Its “Mitte” chapter, which represents workers in the regions of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Thuringia, said it would be seeking eight percent more wages for 12 months for the 400,000 workers it represents.

German consumer prices rose by 7.9 percent in the year to August, according to data published last week by the federal statistics agency Destatis.

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Major German trade union wins pay hike, averting strikes

Germany's biggest trade union agreed Friday on wage hikes totaling 8.5 percent that are expected to cover almost four million workers facing soaring inflation, averting a major strike in Europe's top economy.

Major German trade union wins pay hike, averting strikes

The deal will be closely watched across the continent, which is facing spreading industrial action as employees demand large pay increases to cope with rising costs, particularly of energy.

The agreement between IG Metall union – which represents workers in Germany’s key metal and electrical sectors, and is seen a trend setter for setting wages nationwide – was reached early Friday after weeks of talks and walkouts.

The so-called “pilot agreement” in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, which is expected to eventually cover about 3.9 million workers across Germany, lays out how the pay increase will be introduced in two stages, in 2023 and 2024.

It also includes a €3,000 payment to combat the impact of inflation.

“Employees will soon have significantly more money in their pockets – and permanently,” said Joerg Hofman, president of IG Metall.

The union had initially called for an eight percent increase over 12 months, the biggest hike since 2008.

Its members are from a vast range of key businesses, from automotive to electronics.

Workers have been ratcheting up pressure – with demonstrations, and a series of “warning strikes” at the end of October, which are walkouts for a limited duration, which often accompany salary negotiations in Germany.

READ ALSO: German industry workers to strike from Saturday

If no deal was reached, then the union was poised to launch more serious strikes lasting 24 hours.

While companies are under pressure to hike wages to cope with rising costs, there are fears that raising them too sharply could stoke already sky-high inflation.

READ ALSO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?