Strikes in Germany: 2023 airport, train, rail, and transport strikes on 27th March explained - Lufthansa info

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Union leaders have said better ‘one day of strain’ than weeks of strike action

Trains, planes and public transit systems are at a standstill throughout much of Germany today (27 March), after the country’s Verdi and EVG unions called a one-day strike over salaries in an effort to secure inflation-fighting raises for their members.

As workers at the nation's ports and waterways joined the industrial action, the 24-hour walkout also had an impact on the transportation of cargo by rail and ship.

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Those who could work from home did so, but many commuters chose to drive to their place of employment in spite of the strikes, adding to traffic congestion. The walkout had already caused disruption and delays on Sunday (26 March), as travellers scrambled to reach their destinations early.

But why exactly are transport workers walking out, and what impact is it having on the German public? Here is everything you need to know about it.

Why are transport workers striking in Germany?

Unions are seeking a pay increase of at least 10.5% and have dismissed offers from employers of 5% in two stages plus one-off payments. High inflation also seen elsewhere last year has hit many workers hard, said Ulrich Silberbach of the Civil Service Federation.

“We have recorded drops in real wages and these need to be balanced out,” he told reporters in Berlin, adding that some of his union’s members in larger cities are having to apply for state benefits to afford rent. He said that he hoped employers would increase their offer in upcoming talks – otherwise, unions might have to consider an open-ended strike.

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Members of the Railway and Transport Union and of the United Service Union (ver.di) protest in Munich city centre during a nationwide strike on 27 March in Germany (Photo: Leonhard Simon/Getty Images)Members of the Railway and Transport Union and of the United Service Union (ver.di) protest in Munich city centre during a nationwide strike on 27 March in Germany (Photo: Leonhard Simon/Getty Images)
Members of the Railway and Transport Union and of the United Service Union (ver.di) protest in Munich city centre during a nationwide strike on 27 March in Germany (Photo: Leonhard Simon/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Germany, like many other nations, is experiencing significant inflation as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has driven up the price of food and energy around the world.

Many German employers claim that labour leaders are contributing to the issue through their requests for salary increases, which they claim will only serve to fuel inflation further. This is disputed by unions, who say their members are being asked to shoulder the burden of the skyrocketing cost of living.

What impact are the strikes having?

Rail company Deutsche Bahn called the union’s demands exaggerated and warned that millions of commuters would be affected. Train tickets that could not be used because of the disruption will remain valid and travellers should check the company’s website for updates, it said.

“Thousands of companies that normally send or receive their goods by rail will also suffer,” Deutsche Bahn spokesman Achim Strauss said. “The environment and the climate will also suffer in the end. Today’s winners are the oil companies.”

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But Verdi chief Frank Werneke told public broadcaster Phoenix a “labour struggle that has no impact is toothless,” and admitted that although many commuters and holidaymakers would suffer as a result, “one day of strain with the prospect of reaching a wage agreement” would be preferable to weeks of strike action.

All Lufthansa flights were cancelled due to the significant strike activity throughout Germany, with the German flag carrier confirming that all flights departing from its two main hubs in Frankfurt and Munich were affected - hundreds of thousands of passengers may experience delays as a result.

How regular are strikes in Germany?

The "mega-strike” - as it has been termed by local media - follows recent labour unrest in a number of German industries, including the postal service, airports and local transportation.

Germany has a long history of labour activism, with workers often engaging in strikes and other forms of industrial action to demand better wages, working conditions and benefits. Such actions normally end in compromise deals between unions and employers.

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For example, pilots at Lufthansa, Germany's largest airline, went on strike for two days in November 2019, causing the cancellation of over 1,300 flights. The pilots were demanding better pay and job security, and the strike ended when Lufthansa agreed to a 40% increase in wages and improved working conditions.

And in January 2020, over 70,000 workers in the metal and engineering industry, represented by the IG Metall union, went on strike in Germany’s biggest industrial action in years. The workers were demanding a 4.8% wage increase, reduced working hours and better job security. The strike ended after the union and employers agreed to a 3.7% pay increase and more flexible working hours.

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