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Germany

Transport Strikes Paralyze Germany

Chaos hit Germany on Wednesday, March 5, as airport workers joined thousands of striking public sector employees. The move has also affected visitors to two of the country's major international fairs currently underway.

People waiting at unattended airport counter

Striking aiport workers in Munich protesting for more pay

Scores of flights had to be canceled because of Wednesday morning's walkout by ground crew workers belonging to the public sector union, Verdi.

Frankfurt International Airport -- Germany's largest air hub and the third busiest in Europe -- was among those hit. Frank Bsirske, head of Verdi, said more than 2,000 baggage handlers, check-in-counter workers and airport firefighters had taken part in the strike in the German city.

Airline Deutsche Lufthansa urged passengers to take the train and said it had been forced to cancel around 300 out of 1,850 scheduled flights affecting some 18,500 passengers. Intercontinental flights were not affected.

Industrial action also affected airports in Munich, Cologne-Bonn, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Muenster-Osnabrueck, Saarbruecken and Hanover, where the international technology fair, CeBIT, is currently taking place.

A display informs about cancelled flights at Frankfurt, western Germany, airport, Wednesday, March 5, 2008.

Lufthansa alone cancelled 142 flights, mostly on domestic routes

Visitors to the world's biggest tourism fair, the ITB, which has just begun in Berlin, were also not spared as the capital's bus, subway and tram drivers launched their indefinite strike. Snow blizzards added to stranded commuters' misery.

Fear of a protracted strike

The BVG, Berlin's public transport service, has organized a skeleton service in a bid to ease the problem.

"We have set up an alternative service, but it is just an emergency measure," a BVG spokeswoman said. "It's just a drop in the ocean. We are hoping that the strike does not go on until a week on Friday."

There were also public transport walk-outs in other areas of Germany, including the western states of North-Rhine Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.

Verdi is currently holding talks with federal and municipal officials on behalf of 1.3 million public service workers. The union has called for an eight percent raise for all, backdated to Jan. 1. The government has offered a five percent increase over two years, in return for a longer working week.

Care professionals are also involved in strike action

Nurse standing in front of ver.di poster

Nurses are also among the public sector workers demanding higher wages

The wave of strikes has also affected hospitals and day care centers, garbage collection services and kindergartens in various parts of the country.

In the meantime, the GDL train drivers' union is also threatening to resume strikes nationwide from next week in a protracted dispute with the state railway company, Deutsche Bahn (DB) that was generally regarded to have been concluded.

This could bring chaos to the country's roads and completely cripple the German capital, where the DB-run suburban railway network is the only means of public transport not affected by the current strike.

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