* Mediation to start in early January
* Agreement comes after 15 strikes by pilots
* Separately talks between Eurowings, cabin crew fail
(Adds further details on timing of talks, Eurowings' comment,
Air Berlin leasing deal)
FRANKFURT, Dec 16 Lufthansa and German
pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit have agreed to mediated talks
to resolve a row over contracts dating back to 2012, averting
the threat of further strikes for a few more weeks, the two
parties said on Friday.
Lufthansa has been embroiled in a series of separate
disputes with its pilots and cabin crew staff over pay and
conditions as management seeks to reduce costs to compete with
budget airlines and more efficient long-haul carriers.
The mediation process is to start in early January and be
completed within the month, during which time the pilots will
not call for further strikes, Lufthansa and VC said in a
statement on Friday.
"The negotiating table is the only place where we can find
solutions that offer prospects for employees and for the
company," said Bettina Volkens, Lufthansa's head of personnel.
Lufthansa's pilots have walked out 15 times since early
2014, costing the carrier hundreds of millions of euros in lost
profits. Most recently, they were on strike for six days in
November, costing the airline a further 100 million euros ($104
million) in profits.
The pilots have asked for an average annual pay increase of
3.7 percent over a five-year period back-dated to 2012, which is
when their last collective bargaining contract with Lufthansa
expired. The pilots say altogether these increases would amount
to a rise of nearly 20 percent on current pay.
Lufthansa has proposed an increase of 4.4 percent in two
instalments in 2016 and 2017, plus a one-off payment worth 1.8
CABIN CREW DISPUTE
Separately, cabin crew union UFO said on Friday that
three-way talks with Lufthansa's budget carrier Eurowings and
fellow union Verdi had failed to reach an agreement.
UFO has been trying to agree new contracts for staff at
Eurowings for two years. But Verdi reached a separate agreement
with the carrier earlier this month, which Eurowings wants to
apply to all 450 cabin crew staff.
Under the agreement with Verdi, flight attendants receive a
retroactive pay increase of 2.5 percent from Oct. 1, followed by
another 2.5 percent next year and 1.25 percent in 2018.
"We have offered UFO the same agreement," Eurowings said on
Friday. "We cannot have two different wage contracts with one
group of workers," it added.
Lufthansa wants Eurowings to become Europe's third largest
point-to-point carrier. It announced on Friday it was leasing 38
planes and their crew from ailing rival Air Berlin from
February and this week struck a deal for a full takeover of
($1 = 0.9584 euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Additional reporting by Peter
Maushagen; Editing by Greg Mahlich)