Union threatens Lufthansa with further strikes in wage dispute

A German trade union has threatened Lufthansa with another round of strikes if the airline fails to present a better pay offer when wage talks resume next week.

"If Lufthansa continues to refuse to present a negotiable offer that secures jobs and increases wages appropriately, there will be more strikes," Verdi wage negotiator Christine Behle said on Friday.

On April 22, Lufthansa was virtually grounded by a second strike in a month after Verdi rejected an improved offer by the airline. Analysts estimated that walkout alone cost Lufthansa more than 15 million euros ($19.5 million).

Verdi has been demanding a 5.2 percent pay rise over 12 months and job guarantees for about 33,000 cabin crew and ground staff at Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa Technik, Lufthansa Systems and LSG Sky Chefs.

Lufthansa argues it needs to cut costs to cope with higher fuel prices and cut-throat competition. It is slashing 3,500 jobs worldwide as part of a programme to boost operating profit to 2.3 billion euros by 2015.

Initially, it wanted to push through a pay freeze, plus longer working hours. But last week, the airline made an offer that the union said represented a salary increase of about 0.5 percent over a 12-month period, with no job guarantees, which it rejected as insufficient before calling on workers to walk out.

A spokesman for Lufthansa said on Friday the airline had already made an offer which was representative of the company's business situation. "A solution can only be found together at the negotiating table," he said.

Meanwhile, pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) said it had asked Lufthansa this week for a 4.6 percent pay increase for the 2013/2014 period.

VC has been demanding a 5.2 percent pay rise for 2012/2013 but said talks with Lufthansa have yielded no results so far.

($1 = 0.7689 euros)

(Reporting by Peter Maushagen; Writing by Marilyn Gerlach; Editing by Mark Potter)