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Germany: Airport security staff strike at smaller hubs

March 15, 2024

Airport strikes will again impact flights in Germany, with security staff at a series of smaller hubs not working. Hanover, Dortmund, Weeze, Dresden, Leipzig and Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden are impacted on Friday.

Undated file photo of a commercial plane flying over Baden-Württemberg in Germany, pictured from the ground.
The country's busiest airports are not part of Friday's strikesImage: Silas Stein/dpa/picture alliance

Airport security staff continued a strike called by trade union Verdi at several smaller German hubs on Friday, with authorities predicting considerably fewer cancellations and disruptions than on the previous day but still saying thousands of travelers are liable to be impacted.

Verdi members at Hanover, Dortmund, Weeze, Dresden, Leipzig and Karslruhe/Baden-Baden are not working, seeking to intensify pressure ahead of the next round of negotiations scheduled for March 20. 

Meanwhile, a German employers' federation said on Friday that the series of strikes affecting planes and trains in particular in recent weeks were "not just annoying, but a growth brake." 

German strikes hurting economy and travelers alike

Airport association estimates 580 cancellations on Thursday

The timings of Friday's strikes vary slightly by location. No flights are expected at all on Friday out of Dortmund and Weeze and Karslruhe-Baden-Baden airports, but in Hanover staff were striking only from midnight to midday on Friday. The strike in Dresden covers the morning shift, Leipzig's runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Germany's ADV airport association said that roughly 580 flights were canceled on Thursday as a result of the strike; it predicted less widespread disruption on Friday.

Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden and Cologne/Bonn airports were affected on Thursday. Without security staff to process passengers, luggage and freight, typically the walk-out led to flights being called off.

Cologne/Bonn airport security staff pose with a banner saying "More wages? More security!" in the terminal during a strike, March 14, 2024.
Cologne/Bonn airport workers went on strike on Thursday Image: Sascha Thelen/dpa/picture alliance

The country's busiest two airports, Frankfurt and Munich, have been left out of this week's industrial action.

Employers' federation warns transport strikes stifling economy

The head of the German Employers' Federation (BDA), meanwhile, warned on Friday that the regular public transport strikes were sure to negatively affect the economy. 

"These strikes affecting critical infrastructure are not just annoying but also a growth brake," Steffen Kampeter of the BDA said in Friday's edition of the Rheinische Post. "The economic damages will not just hit the affected companies but rather the entire economy." 

Kampeter said the strikes also led to a "loss of trust in the reliability of infrastructure," calling this a "disadvantage" for the country as a place to do business. He described the actions of the various unions striking as part of different disputes as "disproportionate." 

Employers like national rail operator Deutsche Bahn have tried to challenge the strikes in court, most recently when the train drivers' union called action without the 48-hour period of notice this week, but unsuccessfully. Kampeter argued that these "helpless" court verdicts had indicated that the onus would be on lawmakers to alter strike legislation before a judge would intervene.  

"We need a clear labor dispute law, particularly for the railways and comparable sectors," he said. "Coupled with this there should be a clear statement from the government saying that industrial action must remain the exception. Legal mechanisms for arbitration and minimum periods of notice should be part of this, which would give the affected companies the ability to guarantee customers a minimum level of reliability."

Several labor disputes and deadlocks in different transport sectors

Verdi is negotiating on behalf of roughly 25,000 security personnel in various positions at German airports, seeking improved pay and conditions. 

The security staff checks passengers, staff, luggage and entry to secure areas of airports. There have been five rounds of negotiations so far, with the next one starting on March 20.  

Verdi is also in dispute with Lufthansa in negotiations on behalf of ground staff and Lufthansa cabin crew, with both these disputes also leading to strikes. 

Some movement appeared in the ground staff dispute on Thursday, with Lufthansa and Verdi announcing an attempt at arbitration. 

Employers have criticized the unions for being too open to strikes, also warning that losses are not easily recouped in the air travel sector. The German BDL air transport association said it was usually impossible to make up for lost time and revenues with extra shifts on non-strike days. 

"A canceled flight remains a lost flight," BDL head Matthias von Randow said, arguing that the unions were weakening the material position of employers and employees alike.

Similar strikes have also hit Germany's rail network on a relatively regular basis of late, not least because of the GDL train drivers' union's efforts to secure improved pay and reduced hours.

Germany: Getting around during a rail strike

msh/sms (AFP, dpa)

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