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Striking airport security staff ground flights across Germany

Published 01/02/2024, 05:27
Updated 01/02/2024, 13:25
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man stands near a departures board, as airport workers protest at BER airport during a strike called by German trade union Verdi, in Berlin, Germany, March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Christian Mang/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) -Security staff at 11 German airports, including the global hub Frankfurt, walked off the job on Thursday to press for higher pay, grounding flights and inflicting more pain on Europe's largest economy.

The 24-hour strike, called by labour union Verdi, is the latest in a series of industrial actions that have plagued the country's transportation sector in recent weeks.

The union said it was demanding a pay rise of 2.80 euros ($3.04) per hour and more generous overtime on behalf of 25,000 workers.

Almost 200,000 travellers will be affected by more than 1,100 flight cancellations or delays, the German airports association ADV said on Wednesday. Some of Germany's biggest airports including Berlin and Hamburg said no passengers at all would be able to take a flight.

Disruption was set to continue in Hamburg where Verdi called on ground service staff to strike from 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Friday until midnight.

The union said it represented 9,000 employees at that airport and was demanding higher paychecks and a one-time payment of 3,000 euros to adjust for inflation.

Passenger Ernst Henzl said he had planned to fly to Barcelona, but ended up stranded in Frankfurt airport's entrance hall. "The ones who can strike, do it and they all do it just for themselves. There should be another solution. It can't go on like this," he said.

In Frankfurt, 319 out of around 1,120 scheduled flights have been cancelled so far, a spokesperson for airport operator Fraport said.

All security checks outside the transit areas were closed, preventing all boarding, she added.

Verdi said high inflation had hurt its members.

"The work of aviation security staff must remain financially attractive so that the urgently needed skilled workers can be recruited and retained," Verdi lead negotiator, Wolfgang Pieper, said in a statement. "Safety in air traffic does not come for free."

Verdi's demands would add around a quarter billion euros in costs for the affected companies in 2024 alone, Frank Haindl, the lead negotiator for employers association BDLS, said.

The association of German airport operators ADV also flagged the strikes' impact on the economy.

"In Germany, we see strike announcements almost daily to the detriment of mobility and the economy. This must be stopped," ADV general manager Ralph Beisel said.

Last week, German train drivers staged a five-day strike following a week-long protest by German farmers who blocked roads across the country.

© Reuters. Aviation security workers take part in a strike called by German trade union Verdi, in Frankfurt, Germany, February 1, 2024. REUTERS/Timm Reichert

On Friday, industrial action is expected to bring public transport to a halt in every federal state except Bavaria.

($1 = 0.9207 euros)

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