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Strike brings Germany’s public transport network to halt

Agencies . Frankfurt
28 Mar 2023 00:00:00 | Update: 27 Mar 2023 23:11:17
Strike brings Germany’s public transport network to halt
Monday’s strike is expected to be the largest in Germany for decades – Courtesy Photo

Germany’s transport network is at a near standstill as two of the country’s largest unions strike.

Staff at airports, ports, railways, buses and subways walked out shortly after midnight for a 24-hour stoppage.

Unions are demanding higher wages to help their members cope with the rising cost of living across the country, reports BBC.

There have been multiple smaller walkouts by other public service sectors, but Monday’s is expected to be the largest in decades in the country.

Commuter and regional trains operated by Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national rail operator, have been affected.

Local transport services, including trams and buses, are also not in operation in seven states.

“Petrol and food prices have risen,” one protester in Berlin told the AFP news agency. “I’m feeling it in my wallet.”

Thousands of flights have been cancelled, including at two of the country’s biggest airports - Munich and Frankfurt.

Multiple departures from Munich Airport were also disrupted on Sunday by strike action.

“I am a bit shocked actually,” said one man, who was trying to fly to the Spanish city of Málaga. “I didn’t hear of it [the strike], so I have to find out what to do right now.”

Germany’s airport association said about 380,000 air travellers would be affected by the strike but added it was “beyond any imaginable and justifiable measure”.

Jenny Hill, the BBC’s Berlin correspondent, said it was very rare for a dispute over pay to escalate so dramatically in Germany, but this time two of the country’s largest unions have joined forces.

Verdi represents about 2.5 million employees across the public sector, including in public transport and at airports. It wants to secure a 10.5per cent pay rise for staff.

EVG represents about 230,000 employees at Deutsche Bahn and other bus companies. It wants a 12per cent rise in pay.

Both unions hope the strike will increase pressure on employers ahead of another round of pay negotiations this week.

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, the chief of Verdi, Frank Werneke, described the pay rise as “a matter of survival for many thousands of employees.”

“The people are not only underpaid, they are hopelessly overworked,” he said.

Deutsche Bahn is among the organisations that have condemned the strike, describing it as “completely excessive, groundless and unnecessary”.

Some employer representatives have also warned the unions are making unreasonable demands that risk alienating the public.

Nevertheless, successful wage increases have been negotiated recently. Postal workers won an 11.5per cent pay rise in early March.

Monday’s strike follows a similar walkout in February. More than 2,300 flights were cancelled and representatives of small and medium business associations accused the unions of taking the whole country hostage for their own interests.

There have also been multiple walkouts by other public service sectors in recent weeks, including childcare and education.