Security personnel have walked off the job at two German airports, causing major disruption for passengers. The country’s biggest services-sector union called the strike to back up its demands for higher pay.
Thursday's work stoppage hit Germany's third biggest airport, Düsseldorf, as well as Cologne-Bonn Airport. Both are located in the country's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.
By noon, almost 150 flights out of Düsseldorf had been cancelled and those that did take off "were often empty," according to an airport spokesman. The cancelled flights were mainly to domestic or other European destinations.
At Cologne-Bonn, a smaller airport, only around 4 of 25 flights scheduled before noon took off, some of which were also empty but had to leave to be available for later flights from other airports.
Passengers who did make their flights had to contend with long line-ups to get through security, a process which took as long as an hour and a half to complete.
Security staff not adequately compensated, union argues
The services-sector trade union ver.di called Thursday's work stoppage to back up its demand for a major pay rise for the security staff who check passengers and their carry-on luggage prior to flights. According to the union, as much as 80 percent of the security personnel work for a wage of just 8.23 euros ($10.99) per hour. Ver.di is demanding a pay increase of as much as 30 percent for these and other airport security staff.
"We want to move this entire group out of the low-pay sector," ver.di spokesman Günter Isemeyer told Germany's DPA news agency. "These are the people that are supposed to prevent terrorist attacks."
The Federal Security Industry Association has criticized the union for turning down an offer of a nine percent pay increase.
The strikes at the two airports, which began in the early hours of Thursday, were to run until midnight.
A ver.di spokesman told DPA that the walkouts would be repeated on Friday, after management failed to make a new contract offer by a Thursday deadline set out by the union.
A similar strike at Hamburg Airport last Friday led to the cancellation of around a third of the day's 176 scheduled flights.
The head of the ADV association of German airports, Ralph Beisel, described the strikes as unacceptable, saying that in the current tough economic climate, the airports could not afford the resulting losses in revenue.
pfd/dr (dpa, Reuters)