‘Mega-strike’ disrupts Germany’s public transport

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Public transport in Germany was disrupted on Monday as transport staff across the country staged one of the largest walkouts in decades to push for wage increases in the face of brisk inflation.

Airports, bus and train stations across Germany were at a standstill as workers heeded a call by

the Verdi trade union and railway and transport union, EVG, for a 24-hour strike.

Employees are pressing for higher wages to blunt the effects of inflation which reached 9.3% in February.

Verdi union is negotiating on behalf of around 2.5 million employees in the public sector, including in public transport and at airports, while railway and transport union EVG negotiates for around 230,000 employees at railway operator Deutsche Bahn and bus companies.

In the hours running up to the strike, both sides dug in their heels, with union bosses warning that considerable pay hikes were a “matter of survival” for thousands of workers.

“Millions of passengers who depend on buses and trains are suffering from this excessive, exaggerated strike,” a Deutsche Bahn spokesperson said on Monday.

Verdi is demanding a 10.5% wage increase, which would see pay rising by at least 500 euros ($538) per month, while EVG is asking for a 12% raise or at least 650 euros per month.

Flights suspended

Two of Germany’s largest airports, Munich and Frankfurt, suspended flights, while long-distance rail services were cancelled by rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Stranded passengers expressed both sympathy and unhappiness about the strike action.

EVG chairman Martin Burkert told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper on Monday that employers had not yet made a viable offer and warned that further strikes were possible, including over the Easter holiday period.

Also ReadStrike Halts Germany’s Transport Network

Deutsche Bahn on Sunday said the strike was “completely excessive, groundless and unnecessary”, and employers are warning that higher wages for transport workers would result in higher fares and taxes to make up the difference.

Commerzbank Chief Economist Joerg Kraemer said the economic impact of Monday’s strike was limited so far but this could change if the strikes persisted over a longer time.

“The strike will strain people’s nerves. But economically, the losses are likely to be limited to the transportation industry because factories will continue to operate and many employees will be working from home.” Kraemer said.

Monday’s walkouts are part of waves of disruptive labour strikes in wealthy European countries in recent months including in France and Britain, where hundreds of thousands of transport, health and education workers are pressing for higher wages.

 

Zainab Sa’id

Source Reuters

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