* Ground crew to walk out for 24 hours from 0400 GMT
* Airport operator Fraport rejects arbitrator’s plan
* Union had accepted arbitration deal
* Union says prepared to strike for weeks
FRANKFURT, Feb 19 (Reuters) - A stoppage by ground crew at Frankfurt airport which has grounded hundreds of flights will continue for a third day on Monday and their union said it was prepared to continue the dispute for weeks.
Some 200 crew at Europe’s third-largest airport plan to strike for 24 hours from 0400 GMT, the GdF trade union said on Sunday after Airport operator Fraport rejected a proposed settlement from an arbitrator.
The workers, who guide planes in and out of their parking positions, want higher pay, arguing their jobs have become more complex following the introduction of a fourth runway last October.
Fraport says that the pay rise as well as the settlement plan from arbitrator Ole von Beust, an ex-mayor of Hamburg, would alienate other workers at the airport who earn less but do similar work.
The company said it aimed to operate 70 percent of scheduled flights on Monday by using non-union labour or staff who have done the job in the past.
Out of a total of about 1,300 flights a day, 172 were cancelled on Thursday and 290 on Friday, most of them operated by German flagship carrier Lufthansa.
The airline will focus on getting its long-haul flights out on Monday, said a Lufthansa spokesman.
Frankfurt is Europe’s third busiest airport behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle, serving over 56 million passengers in 2011 and employing over 70,000 people. The airport is closed from 2200 GMT to 0400 GMT and during the night workers prepare the next day’s operations.
The GdF union says its demands amount to an overall pay increase for all workers of 5 percent while Fraport says for some workers would be in line for a 70 percent increase.
Bankhaus Lampe analyst Sebastian Hein estimated the revenue lost by Lufthansa over Thursday and Friday at about 40 million euros ($52.65 million), while Metzler’s Juergen Pieper said one day’s strike could cost between 2-3 million in profits.
A strike by Lufthansa pilots in 2010 that was suspended after one day cost Lufthansa 48 million euros in lost revenues.
So far, Fraport has not resorted to legal measures, such as taking out a temporary injunction, to avert the strike.
Court action was used last year to avert a planned strike by German air traffic controllers during the peak summer period. In 2010 pilots from Air Berlin and Lufthansa were forced by judges to call off strikes.