Warning as thousands of flights and trains canceled again in Germany

Two unions called for more strikes over wages and working conditions

Via AP news wire
Monday 04 March 2024 15:18 GMT
Related: Local public transport workers begin ‘warning strikes’ across Germany, disrupting commuters

Thousands of flights and trains are expected to be canceled again this week in Germany after two unions called for more strikes over wages and conditions.

Negotiations continue for ground staff of German airline Lufthansa and German rail operator's Deutsche Bahn train drivers. German train drivers’ union GDL and Ver.di called for the strikes Thursday and Friday.

Around 200,000 air passengers will be affected by the two-day strike, according to an initial estimate by the Lufthansa Group, meaning that around 1,000 flights per day will be canceled as during previous strikes.

The strike on long-distance and regional train services begins at 2.00 a.m. (0100GMT) on Thursday and will affect millions of travelers. According to GDL, the strike is set to last until 1 pm Friday. In freight transport, the strike will begin on Wednesday at 6 pm (1700GMT) and is scheduled to last until 5 am Friday.

In addition to pay raises, GDL has been calling for working hours to be reduced from 38 to 35 per week without a pay cut, which Deutsche Bahn has refused.

The Ver.di union seeks a 12.5% pay raise, or at least 500 euros ($542) more per month, in negotiations for nearly 25,000 Lufthansa ground workers including check-in, aircraft handling, maintenance and freight staff.

Coinciding contract negotiations have resulted in several recent walkouts in the rail, air and local transport sectors in Germany.

ICE trains are parked outside the central station in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, January 24, 2024 (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The first passenger rail strike will begin at 0100GMT on Thursday and last 35 hours, GDL union head Claus Weselsky said, adding that information on further worker action would follow.

“With this, we begin a so-called strike wave,” he told reporters.

The planned strikes are a continuation of a dispute that is estimated to have already cost the German economy hundreds of millions of euros.

Weeks-long talks between GDL and Deutsche Bahn broke down last week.

GDL’s last national rail strike in late January was set to be the longest in the state-owned company’s 30-year history, but ended prematurely as a German economic slowdown led to pressure on GDL to return to the negotiating table.

“We are still prepared to find constructive but realistic solutions. However, the GDL’s maximum demands are unrealisable and pose a massive threat to the railway system,” said Deutsche Bahn’s Martin Seiler.

A Lufthansa aircraft is parked at the airport in Munich, Germany (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

He also pointed to the costs of the strike action to the economy, adding in a statement: “Many millions of euros are being destroyed because a few people are fighting for their own particular interests.”

Lufthansa, meanwhile, will likely miss its 2024 profit margin goal as it seeks to agree new, higher pay deals to end the prolonged strikes, which have forced it to cancel thousands of flights, analysts and investors say.

“With this uncompromising stance, the union is harming the company, many hundreds of thousands of customers and the employees of our companies,” Michael Niggemann, Lufthansa’s chief human resources officer, said in the statement.

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