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Strikes cripple Germany’s rail network, airports

  • April 22, 2023

Germany has witnessed some of its most disruptive strikes in decades since last year, when the war in Ukraine sent energy and food prices soaring, leading to union pressure for wages to rise in line with living costs.

High inflation has also exacerbated labour problems in sectors like aviation that have faced a difficult transition following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The rail workers’ action was set to coincide with a walkout at four German airports — Duesseldorf, Hamburg, Cologne Bonn and Stuttgart — by members of the Verdi union, after around 700 departures were cancelled by strikes at the first three locations on Thursday.

The rail workers’ strike, organised by the EVG union, started at 3am and ended at 11am (local time), although nationwide disruptions to the train network were expected for the whole day.

According to EVG, around 22,500 Deutsche Bahn employees took part in the strike, which impacted national rail and another 49 railway companies.

“This is quite irritating because we travelled a long way to be at the station,” said Robert Auracher, a traveller stranded at Munich central station.

“Almost no trains” were running due to the shortage of staff, Achim Stauss, a spokesman for national rail operator Deutsche Bahn, told reporters at Berlin’s deserted central station. More than 15,000 employees from 50 companies have joined the strike, according to the EVG transport union.

State-owned Deutsche Bahn said commuter trains started running again after the end of the strike, with long-distance connections set to resume.

Rail freight traffic was also at a standstill.

Germany’s rail system was largely brought to a halt in a major strike at the end of March led by EVG and public sector union Verdi.

Verdi, which represents around 2.5 million employees, has also been engaged for several weeks in tense negotiations with national and local authorities.

The talks here are set to resume on Saturday.

The EVG, is seeking a 12 per cent wage increase, or at least an additional 650 euros ($715) per month. Deutsche Bahn has offered 5pc and one-off payments of up to 2,500 euros.

Over the last months, workers in different sectors including healthcare, childcare and transport have gone on strike to demand better conditions.

Inflation in Germany stood at 7.4pc in March, remaining very elevated despite having fallen from a peak of 8.8pc in last October.

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