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Lufthansa pilots to strike for 4 days

This Aug. 1, 2008 file picture shows planes of German airline Lufthansa standing on the airfield at the airport in  Munich, southern Germany.
This Aug. 1, 2008 file picture shows planes of German airline Lufthansa standing on the airfield at the airport in Munich, southern Germany.
Uwe Lein, Associated Press

FRANKFURT — Pilots at German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG voted Wednesday to go on a four-day strike over wages and job security issues.

The pilots' Vereinigung Cockpit union said the strike will begin midnight Monday and that more than 90 percent of the members from Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo and subsidiary Germanwings decided to strike.

Lufthansa, Europe's biggest airline by sales, said a strike is unreasonable and would greatly hurt the company, workers and customers. The union and the airline have been in negotiations over the matters since May.

"In the interest of the company and its customers, Vereinigung Cockpit is requested back to the negotiating table to work out a constructive solution," the company said. "Lufthansa will do everything to keep the effects as minimal as possible for customers and passengers."

The union said it is concerned about the increasing tendency of Lufthansa to substitute its own routes with those from airlines that the company has acquired, ultimately threatening German jobs.

Lufthansa, based in Cologne, owns or holds significant stakes in airlines including Swiss International Airlines, Austrian Airlines, JetBlue of the U.S. and Britain's BMI.

Lufthansa spokeswoman Claudia Lange responded by saying that the union "is insisting on a greater say on fundamental strategic issues which should be left to management."

She said while the fear of the union is that there will be less jobs on Lufthansa aircraft, the group's Lufthansa brand is still growing despite the poor economic climate and will see added cockpit jobs, receiving the bulk of the group's 146 new aircraft on order until 2016.

The company would not say what it expected in terms of flight cancellations or what it might cost the company in euro terms, but a strike could affect 4,500 Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo and subsidiary Germanwings' pilots. It could potentially cause massive disruptions in delays and cancellations across the country, Europe and internationally. The last major Lufthansa pilot strike was in 2001 and lasted several days, but proved chaotic.

The company said it set up a toll-free number and will post information on its Web site for passengers to check flight status and make alternate arrangements. Those alternatives include some flight rebookings or cancellations free of charge, while domestic tickets can be converted for use on the national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Lufthansa shares were up nearly a percent at euro11.05 ($15.15) in Frankfurt afternoon trading.