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Business

Courier strike leaves Berlin's ATMs low on funds

Berlin is running out of cash. For three weeks, those in charge of replenishing the city's ATMs have been on strike - and there is no end in sight. That's a problem in a country that prefers cash over plastic.

For all the talk of bank runs and dwindling cash supplies in Athens, it has been people in the German capital, Berlin, that have had the hardest time withdrawing money in the last few weeks.

Cash machines are running low as striking money couriers enter their third week of industrial action. The workers are refusing to refill ATMs across the city as long as their employer, Prosegur, a local security firm, refuses to pay them 1 euro more per hour.

A spokesman for the Verdi trade union, which is conducting negotiations between the couriers and Prosegur, said on Tuesday that the strike would go on until all of the employees' demands were met.

They are also seeking better high-risk insurance for injuries sustained on the job. There have been a number of brazen heists on ATMs in Germany in recent years, some of which have involved explosives.

Paying the old-fashioned way

The couriers' strike has left Berlin residents and visitors in a tight spot. With nearly 80 percent of transactions done in cash here, many stores and restaurants don't even have the capacity to let patrons pay with plastic.

It also wasn't the only bit of industrial action that has inconvenienced people in Germany. In March, pilots at Germany's flagship carrier Lufthansa walked off the job, followed by train drivers and kindergarten teachers earlier this month.

The pilots' strike led to flight cancellations for some 220,000 people. The interruptions in passenger train service lasted 138 hours and were Germany's longest ever. Berlin is now looking to curb the influence of smaller, niche unions that represent only a portion of a company's workforce.

The proposed law foresees limiting employees' labor representation to one union per group of workers.

cjc/hg (AFP, dpa, Verdi)

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