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Germany: Strikes at 4 airports ground hundreds of flights

March 17, 2023

Strikes have led to hundreds of flights to and from four German airports being canceled. The walkouts are part of a wider scenario of industrial action called by the public sector union Verdi.

A member of staff on strike at Düsseldorf airport
One of the airports to be hit was Düsseldorf, the fourth largest in Germany by passenger volumeImage: Roberto Pfeil/dpa/picture alliance

Four German airports were hit by strikes on Friday, with the cancellation of hundreds of flights in the latest round of industrial action to wreck travel plans in recent months.

German trade union Verdi called on security and ground handling staff at four airports to stage walkouts over working conditions and pay.

How big is the strike action?

The strikes were expected to result in 681 flight cancellations, according to the German Airports Association. Roughly 89,000 passengers were expected to be affected.

The affected airports include the busiest hubs in Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia  — Düsseldorf and Cologne/Bonn — as well as the two largest in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg — Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden and Stuttgart.

A Verdi spokesman confirmed all-day strikes at both airports on Friday morning involving security and ground handling staff.

At Cologne, almost all flights — 144 of the originally-planned 148 takeoffs and landings of passenger aircraft — would not take place, a spokesman said.

At Düsseldorf — the largest of the affected airports, where some 500 staff were striking — 264 of the originally planned 391 takeoffs and landings were affected.

The strike timing varied, starting at 10 p.m. local time (2100 GMT/UTC) on Thursday in Cologne, and 3 a.m. at Düsseldorf.

Because of shift patterns and timing, the strikes were not expected to end until the early hours of Saturday morning in some areas.

Airport operators urged passengers to check the status of their flight airlines and tour operators before making their way to the airport.

"We have a good turnout, the mood is determined," a Verdi spokesman said.

Wider string of travel sector walkouts

Earlier in the week, there were strikes at the Berlin, Bremen, and Hamburg airports — the latest in a series of walkouts as the post-pandemic travel rebound is hit with staffing problems and calls for pay increases.

Verdi called the strike amid unsuccessful negotiations with industry and public sector bosses in a range of sectors, particularly in the areas of travel and healthcare.

The western city of Cologne's public transport company said it expected transport there to be strike action next Monday and Tuesday.

Talks are being held for approximately 2.5 million federal and municipal employees nationwide, with the unions demanding a 10.5% wage increase, or at least €500 ($527) more per month, whichever figure is greater. So far, employers have offered a 5% increase in two steps and one-off payments of €2,500 with a third round of negotiations scheduled for March 27-29.

Nationwide strike calls have been issued for hospitals, psychiatric clinics, nursing homes, and emergency services, the union said.

There were strikes in several hospitals in the northern cities of Hamburg and Kiel on Wednesday, as well as in other parts of the country, along with some day-care centers.

rc/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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