Germany Faces Day of Travel Chaos as Airport, Rail Staff Strike

Germany’s air and rail services ground to a halt Monday during a one-day strike as workers join peers in France and the UK to fight for higher pay.

(Bloomberg) — Germany’s air and rail services ground to a halt Monday during a one-day strike as workers join peers in France and the UK to fight for higher pay.

The industrial action began at midnight Sunday for 24 hours and also affects some ports, with the Verdi and EVG transport and railway unions coming together in a strike that resulted in severe disruption to travel. Verdi is demanding a raise of 10.5% for public sector workers.  

Major airports including Frankfurt and Munich won’t operate Monday. Frankfurt Airport advised passengers changing planes to avoid the hub. Long-distance, regional and local trains operated by Deutsche Bahn and other railway will also come to a standstill, EVG said. Frankfurt airport, Germany’s biggest, was expected to handle more 1,100 takeoffs and landing on a normal Monday. 

Verdi Hamburg on Saturday said it has made agreements with all affected companies in order to guarantee safe passage in the event of accidents, emergency landings or medical or patient transport.

Travelers already got a taste of the chaos yesterday when Deutsche Lufthansa AG was forced to cancel some flights due to technical issues. Europe’s biggest airline group has suffered a spate of strikes and operational mishaps in recent months, riling passengers as air travel comes back from the pandemic and more people gear up to fly on their Easter vacation.

“Numerous connections are already canceled every day because trains are no longer running due to a lack of staff,” EVG head Martin Burkert said in statement ahead of the strike. “This situation will continue to worsen because railway and transport companies will continue to bleed out personnel if wages are not significantly increased now.”

European workers in public service roles have staged repeated walkouts in recent weeks demanding better pay amid record inflation and a cost of living crisis. In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform has prompted violent clashes. The UK has also endured months of repeat strikes by train workers.

EVG does not plan any strike action over the Easter holidays, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported yesterday. Verdi officials representing more than 2.5 million service-industry workers in Germany met with their counterparts in Potsdam near Berlin on Monday for a third round of wage negotiations. Government negotiators are offering pay increases of 5% and a one-time, tax free payment of €2,500 for employees.

“We will continue to negotiate hard, but also fairly and constructively,” said German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. “Employers and trade unions have a great responsibility in these difficult times. This responsibility includes struggling for good solutions at the negotiating table and also achieving these solutions.”

(Updates with comment in last paragraph.)

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