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German unions call for wide-ranging transport strike on Monday

The one-day strike is expected to bring widespread disruption to planes, trains and local transit. Many employees are seeking hefty raises to reflect persistently high inflation

An airport security union representative posts a poster reading "Warning strike!" in an empty Terminal 2 at Hamburg Airport
An airport security union representative posts a poster reading "Warning strike!" at Hamburg Airport, on March 22, 2023, in Hamburg, Germany.Bodo Marks (AP)

German unions are calling on thousands of workers across the country’s transport system to stage a one-day strike on Monday that is expected to bring widespread disruption to planes, trains and local transit. The ver.di service workers’ union and the EVG union, which represents many railway workers, announced the 24-hour walkout in a joint appearance Thursday that came as employees in many sectors have been seeking hefty raises to reflect persistently high inflation.

Ver.di chair Frank Werneke said that his union is calling for 120,000 workers to walk out. Those will include security and ground workers at all German airports except Berlin, local transit employees in seven of Germany’s 16 states, harbor employees and workers on highways — the latter a measure that Werneke said is likely to affect some tunnels.

“This strike day will have a massive effect — we are aware of this and it is also necessary,” Werneke said. He added that it’s important to make clear before the next round of negotiations “that our demands have broad support in the workforce.”

EVG counterpart Martin Burkert said that his union is calling for 230,000 workers at Germany’s main railway operator, government-owned Deutsche Bahn, and others to walk out. He said people traveling on Sunday should take care “to be at their destination in a timely manner,” because some of the affected shifts could start on Sunday evening.

Deutsche Bahn personnel chief Martin Seiler called the EVG strike announcement “completely excessive, unnecessary and disproportionate.”

“We assume that the country will be paralyzed on Monday, and that as good as nothing will be possible in rail transport,” he added. Deutsche Bahn said that it won’t operate any long-distance trains and most regional trains won’t run either.

Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest, tweeted that its operations will be “heavily disrupted,” and “strongly advised” passengers against traveling to the airport on Monday.

Munich Airport, the country’s second-busiest, said that ver.di is hitting it with two days of strikes and it will have no regular passenger or cargo flights on either Sunday or Monday.

Ver.di is engaged in a series of pay negotiations, notably for employees of Germany’s federal and municipal governments. In that case, it is seeking a 10.5% pay raise. Employers have offered a total of 5% in two stages plus one-time payments of 2,500 euros ($2,700).

It already has staged a series of one-day walkouts at individual airports and in public services, including local transit.

EVG is seeking a raise of 12%. Deutsche Bahn also has offered a two-stage raise totaling 5% plus one-time payments.

Germany’s annual inflation rate in February was 8.7%.

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