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Lufthansa ground staff stage several-hour strike over pay, airline cancels hundreds of flights

Ground staff at Lufthansa, Germany's biggest airline, are staging a several-hour strike that has prompted the company to cancel hundreds of flights.

The ver.di union called workers at several airports including Frankfurt and Munich out on a so-called warning strike ahead of wage negotiations. The walkouts started Thursday at 4 a.m. (0300 GMT; 11 p.m. Wednesday EDT) and are to continue until late morning.

Ahead of the strikes, Lufthansa canceled nearly 700 flights — including much of the morning's domestic and European flight schedule.

The union and Lufthansa are to meet Friday to discuss ver.di's demand for a 5.2 percent increase over the next year for 33,000 Lufthansa employees. Ver.di says Lufthansa's call for a two-year pay freeze until January 2015 and the extension of the work week by an hour is unacceptable.