FRANKFURT, March 21 (Reuters) - Lufthansa has had to cancel almost 700 flights as workers went on strike early on Thursday to put pressure on the German airline ahead of a new round of wage talks on Friday.
The strike, announced by labour union Verdi on Wednesday, is expected to last until 1000 am local time (0900 GMT) but will wipe out domestic and European flights by Lufthansa into the afternoon.
"We see this strike as disproportionate at this time. Talks are scheduled for tomorrow, and the exchange of demands has only just started," a spokesman for Lufthansa said.
A list posted on the airline's website on Wednesday afternoon showed a total of 688 cancelled flights, mostly to German and European destinations. Lufthansa said it aimed to get most intercontinental flights off the ground despite the strike.
In negotiations that started last month, German union Verdi is demanding a 5.2 percent increase in wages for 12 months for 33,000 employees at Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa Technik, Lufthansa Systems, catering unit LSG Sky Chefs and ground crews. It also wants a commitment by Lufthansa to safeguard jobs.
Lufthansa, Europe's biggest airline by revenue, has said it wants to freeze pay and ask employees to work one hour more each week to help it to remain competitive in a tough market. (Reporting by Maria Sheahan. Editing by Jane Merriman)