Page last updated at 19:42 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Lufthansa pilot: 'If we crash, the company goes down'

As Lufthansa pilots suspend their strike after the first of a planned four days, captain Joerg Handwerg explains why he and his colleagues took action.

Lufthansa pilot Joerg Handwerg
Lufthansa pilot Joerg Handwerg says jobs are under threat

This whole conflict started when Lufthansa made their highest turnover ever in 2007.

As their employees, of course we wanted a share in that huge profit. In 2009, Lufthansa started saying they were hit by the recession.

They said they needed to save 1bn euros per year.

But Lufthansa is one of the most profitable airlines in the world. They are using the recession as an excuse to cut costs and cut our salaries.

The company recently bought Austrian Airlines. They need money to turn that into a profit-making enterprise. And they are taking that money from our salary.

Our salaries were automatically cut by 12% last year. That was built into our contracts. We told Lufthansa that we were willing to talk about increasing our productivity for the same pay.

However, we wanted more job security.

We hold the lives of between 100 to 500 people in our hands on each flight

Our jobs are under threat from the Austrian, Swiss and British pilots.

Because their loss-making companies - Austrian Airlines, Swiss Air and British Midlands - were bought by Lufthansa, they will accept any conditions from Lufthansa to keep their jobs.

I don't want to say how much I earn, because it will only turn into a jealousy debate. But a Lufthansa co-pilot's salary starts at 60,000 euros [£52,000], and I am now a captain.

We earn good money, but we also have a huge responsibility.

We hold the lives of between 100 to 500 people in our hands on each flight.

If we crash, the whole company goes down.

We don't like going on strike. The last time we went on strike was in 2001.

But as Lufthansa is refusing to co-operate, we had no choice.




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