German air traffic union calls off strike after court ban

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A union representing German air traffic controllers withdrew its strike call Wednesday hours after a court ruling in Frankfurt banning their action over pay.

The sector's union GDF had initially announced it would appeal an injunction issued Wednesday evening in a case brought to the court by the agency responsible for air traffic, the Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS).

In the end however, union spokesman Markus Siebers announced that for the moment they were withdrawing their strike call over pay claims.

But they reserved the right to renew their call for action if the appeal court ruling went in their favour, he added.

Despite the decision to call off the strike, some delays are expected Thursday morning because airlines and airports had anticipated the strike.

Earlier Wednesday, the court rejected the union's argument that air traffic controllers should get higher pay when temporarily assigned to posts that were better paid than their normal work.

The proposed strike was "contrary to the social peace", it ruled.

The strike would have affected up to 2,500 flights from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm (0400 to 1000 GMT) on Thursday, at the height of the holiday season.

Nearly 96 percent of members in the GDF -- which represents 3,000 of the country's 5,500 air traffic controllers -- had voted for all-out strike action after talks broke down between the two sides.

Jens Bergmann, head of personnel at DFS, welcomed the union's decision, even if, he said, it had arrived very late. He called on them to return to wage talks.

After Monday's overwhelming vote in favour of strike action, they had already put fresh proposals on the table.

German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer had accused the union of gambling with people's holidays.

"Germans don't deserve that," he said.

But the union could still announce industrial action for Friday which, if it went ahead, would be a first for the union, which has never called an indefinite strike.

The union wants a 6.5 percent pay increase for its members and better working conditions; management has offered just 4.1 percent over two years, according to a union statement.

The DFS said air traffic controllers' annual salaries ranged between 72,000 and 130,000 euros ($105,000 and $190,000) and stressed that most of them worked five days on, three days off, in a statement on its website.

© 2011 AFP

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