A labor dispute between ground control workers and management at Frankfurt Airport appears to be escalating. The union says it will widen the strike, calling on air traffic controllers to stage a walk out.
The union that represents striking ground control workers at Europe's third-busiest airport said on Tuesday it would escalate the labor dispute by widening the work stoppage to air traffic controllers.
A spokesman confirmed on Tuesday morning that tower staff would join the strike from 5 a.m. until 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Previously the strike had been limited to tarmac staff.
"Everyone who is a member of the union can be called upon to strike. This includes the air-traffic controllers," Matthias Maas, a spokesman for the GdF union had told reporters in Frankfurt on Monday.
Maas had said the union would announce any additional walkouts 24 hours ahead of when they were to begin. He also accused Stefan Schulte, the head of Fraport, the company that operates Frankfurt's international airport of escalating the dispute by making the workers an inadequate offer during a break in the strikes last week.
"Schulte says that he will out-poker us," Maas said. "Now we're playing poker too."
Deutsche Flugsicherung, the company responsible for air-traffic control in Germany, expressed alarm at the news that its employees might be called upon to strike, with a spokesman describing the GdF threat as unreasonable.
"This isn't our labor dispute, it has to do with Fraport," the spokesman said.
Majority of flights still operating
The latest warning strikes by ground staff forced the cancellation of around 200 flights on Monday. Most of the cancellations affected flights operated by Germany's flag carrier, Lufthansa. The airline, which accounts for about half of the traffic in and out of Frankfurt, cancelled 140 flights on Monday and a similar number for Tuesday.
The GdF called its 200 ground control workers off the job late on Sunday evening. They aren't due to return to work until Thursday at 5 a.m.
Two sides far apart
This is just the latest set of warning strikes that GdF has called to back up its demands for higher wages and improved working conditions. The previous five days of strikes over the past two weeks resulted in an average of 200 flights per day being cancelled.
The latest move could cause greater disruptions than the existing actions. The commercial operator of Frankfurt airport, Fraport, says the strike in its current form is costing it about 1 million euros ($1.4 million) per day. The airport is using non-union replacement workers to keep around 80 percent of flights in the air, prioritizing long-haul travel.
The union, which represents a total of 3,500 airport workers, is seeking significantly higher wages and shorter working hours for the ground control staff. Fraport has dismissed the union's demands as excessive.
pfd/ncy (Reuters, dpa)