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Lufthansa in last-ditch talks with UFO union

Deutsche Lufthansa is holding last-ditch talks with cabin crew union UFO to avert possible all-out strikes that could cripple its business, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The union has been balloting its members for industrial action, and if at least 70% of votes cast favor strikes there will likely be a walkout.

The source told Reuters the gap between management's offer and the union's demands had narrowed somewhat.

A fourth round of wage talks in which Lufthansa offered a wage increase of up to 10% failed last month. The package included better work conditions and profit sharing.

Pushing for a better offer, cabin crews represented by UFO have staged protests twice so far, forcing the carrier to cancel dozens of flights and cope with delays.

Last July, Lufthansa's passenger numbers were hurt by strikes by ground staff and cabin crew as well as walkouts by regional pilots that forced the carrier to cut flights.

The wage agreement that ended that walkout added about €100 million ($126.4 million) a year to costs, the company has said.

Lufthansa is due to report full-year 2008 earnings on Wednesday. The company last month raised its outlook, saying its fourth-quarter had yielded stronger results than expected, aided by lower fuel costs. (Reuters)