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Eurowings wins union backing to speed up hiring amid Air Berlin turbulence
September 20, 2017 / 10:38 AM / a month ago

Eurowings wins union backing to speed up hiring amid Air Berlin turbulence

BERLIN (Reuters) - Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) budget unit Eurowings has agreed a deal with the Verdi union that will allow it to hire new cabin crew at short notice from rivals such as bankrupt Air Berlin (AB1.DE).

People line up behind a barrier tape of Lufthansa's budget airlines Eurowings during a 24-hour strike over pay and working conditions at Cologne-Bonn airport, Germany October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Eurowings launched a recruitment drive last month, seeking around 200 pilots and 400 cabin crew qualified to fly and crew A320 jets.

Air Berlin also flies A320s and so Eurowings’ move is a chance for staff to get hired without waiting for talks on a carve-up of the carrier to finish.

Eurowings, which did not mention Air Berlin staff specifically in its statement, said it had received over 1,000 applications for the positions and had started interviews.

Eurowings planned talks on Wednesday with pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit with the aim of being able to take on captains and first officers at short notice as well, it said.

The deal with Verdi, which Eurowings says will take into account applicants’ previous experience, follows a similar accord with union UFO, which also represents cabin crew.

Workers at Air Berlin, which employs more than 8,000 staff, are waiting to see how the airline will be divided up among interested parties, with a final decision expected by a creditors’ committee on Sept. 25.

Verdi said on Wednesday it expected a large part of the work force would not get a new job as part of the sale process. It said it and Air Berlin management had asked for the help of the federal government and three German states to set up a temporary employment company for those staff because Air Berlin could not bear the cost of such a scheme itself.

Lufthansa has made an offer for parts of the airline, with one source saying Germany’s largest carrier was interested in up to 90 planes, including Austrian holiday airline unit Niki’s fleet and 38 crewed planes it already leases from Air Berlin.

Industry investor Hans Rudolf Woehrl has offered to buy Air Berlin in its entirety, while Britain’s easyJet (EZJ.L) has made a bid for parts of Air Berlin’s short-haul business.

Former Formula One champion Niki Lauda has bid with German airline Condor, part of Thomas Cook (TCG.L). Lauda has said he is interested in buying back Niki, an airline he set up in 2003.

British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L) has also joined the fray, sources have told Reuters. German agency dpa-afx reported on Wednesday that IAG was interested in Niki. IAG declined comment.

Meanwhile, German family-owned logistics firm Zeitfracht has offered to buy Air Berlin’s cargo marketing platform, its maintenance business and regional unit LGW.

A committee of Air Berlin creditors is due to meet on Thursday to discuss the offers, and a final decision on sales is due on Sept. 25, the day after German national elections.

The Berliner Zeitung daily reported late on Wednesday that the deadline for Air Berlin’s maintenance business had been pushed back to Sept. 29.

Eurowings and Condor are already stepping in to fill some of the gap left by Air Berlin cancellations, setting up new routes to the Caribbean that will begin in November.

Two people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday that Air Berlin would halt its few remaining long-haul routes, from Duesseldorf to U.S. cities like New York and Miami, from Oct. 15. Air Berlin said no decision had been made.

Additional reporting by Alistair Smout, Klaus Lauer and Tom Koerkemeier; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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