Unions shut down German transport sector

5th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Scores of flights are cancelled around Germany.

Berlin -- Ground staff at German airports came out on rolling strikes Wednesday, causing severe disruption to air travel at the country's main airports.

The main carrier Lufthansa said it had cancelled some 300 flights, 80 of them at its Frankfurt hub, Germany's largest airport.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman said domestic flights had been badly hit and clients had been advised they could use their air tickets on the rail network.

No long-haul flights had not been cancelled, although there had been delays, she said.

The strikes, part of a series of warning strikes lasting several hours called by the Verdi services union, are aimed at pressing a pay demand for 1.3 million public sector and other workers.

"The readiness to strike is high, because our members are fed up," Verdi boss Frank Bsirske said at Frankfurt airport, where long queues built up at check-in desks.

Airports in Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Hanover and Hamburg also reported delays.

Thousands of public sector workers demonstrated in Dusseldorf in support of demands for a significant pay rise after years of wage restraint.

Public transport services were badly hit in many cities.

Verdi, Germany's second-largest union with 2.2 million members, is demanding an 8-per-cent increase in pay over the next 12-month contract, with a minimum of 200 euros a month.

It has warned that if there is no movement from employers - the federal government and the local authorities - at a fifth and final round of talks starting near Berlin on Thursday, the union will move to ballot members on an unlimited strike.

The employers have refused to budge from an offer of up to 5 percent spread over two years, saying the public sector coffers could not take a larger hike.

In a separate dispute in Berlin, around 12,000 public transport workers began an all-out, unlimited strike, halting underground rail, tram and bus services. The city transport authorities operated an emergency bus service.

The shutdown, also called by Verdi, hit the international tourism fair that opened Wednesday in the German capital.

The daily Berliner Zeitung said there was widespread support among the traveling public for the striking workers according to a poll it had taken.

A year-long dispute between the GDL train drivers union and state-owned rail company Deutsche Bahn (DB) has flared anew, with the GDL calling an all-out strike from Monday.

GDL boss Manfred Schell accused DB of not taking talks seriously.

The two sides appeared to have agreed an 11-percent rise for 20,000 train drivers plus a one-off payment and shorter hours, but the deal broke down on the GDL's demand for a contract completely independent from that agreed for other rail workers.

German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee appealed to the GDL to hold off on strike action and return to talks with DB but did not say he would get involved in attempting to mediate as he did last year.

Confederation of German Industry (BDI) President Juergen Thumann warned a renewed rail strike could cause "immense damage."

Strikes last year hit DB's commuter services used by 4.8 million passengers daily and then the 4,800 freight trains that run daily.

The vital steel, automotive and chemicals sectors are seen as particularly vulnerable to a rail strike.

DPA with Expatica

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