German airline Lufthansa says it has cancelled 895 flights to and from Munich and Frankfurt due to labour union strikes set for Wednesday, affecting some 87,000 passengers.

The strikes, which will include staff in mechanical workshops, ground services and air safety control, will also cause cancellations and delays at Dusseldorf, Cologne/Bonn, Dortmund and Hanover airports. Lufthansa said it would announce further cancellations in due course.

Verdi - one of Germany's biggest labour unions - has organized the industrial action in order to increase the pressure in an ongoing battle with local and federal governments about public sector wages. The union is pushing for a 6-per-cent pay rise.

"Employers should review their stance and their offer, so that a solution can be found during the third round of negotiations on Thursday and Friday," Frank Bsirski, the head of Verdi, told the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper on Tuesday.

As part of the same effort, strikes were taking place Tuesday in public institutions such as kindergartens, hospitals and swimming pools. Public services such as rubbish pickup were also affected.

Lufthansa said that it has cancelled 545 flights to and from Munich, affecting some 54,000 passengers, and 350 flights to and from Frankfurt, affecting some 33,000 people. Forty per cent of its scheduled flights would proceed as normal.

"Verdi's strikes are damaging the competitiveness of the one airline that offers its employees the highest social standards," said Bettina Volkens, director of industrial relations at Lufthansa and a member of its executive board.

Lufthansa passengers on domestic flights were being given the option of rail tickets free of charge, irrespective of whether or not their flight will be affected by the strikes, the company said.

Air Berlin - Germany's second-largest airline - will also be affected by the strikes. Thirty-five domestic flights to and from Munich and 13 to and from Cologne/Bonn have been cancelled.

Passengers affected by the strikes can change their flight free of charge to any date between April 28 and May 4, the company said in a statement. All long-haul flights will be diverted via Nuremberg.

In November, Lufthansa flight attendants staged the longest and most expensive strike in the company's history, costing the company an estimated 140 million euros (158 million dollars).

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