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Germany: Dual rail and air strikes affect 'millions'

March 7, 2024

Millions in Germany are affected as Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa staff strike for higher wages, causing significant travel disruptions. The strikes are expected to last until Saturday, impacting both rail and air travel.

Trains sit inactive at Frankfurt main train station
It is the fifth strike in the months-long wage dispute between the drivers' union and Deutsche BahnImage: Boris Roessler/dpa/picture alliance

Millions faced having to make alternative travel plans on Thursday as parallel transport strikes crippled Germany's rail and air transport systems.

Staff at national airline Lufthansa and rail operator Deutsche Bahn are demanding higher pay.

How will the strikes take effect?

Germany's long-distance and regional rail network came to a halt as train drivers began a 35-hour strike over wages.
That walkout coincided with a two-day strike by ground staff at Lufthansa, with Germany's national carrier expected to fly just 10% to 20% of its original schedule. 

Deutsche Bahn said it expected "massive disruptions" on Thursday and Friday, with the aim of returning to normal by Saturday.

With regional transport, the train operator said it expected the strike — called by the German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) — would result in "greatly reduced service." The company said the extent of disruption would vary significantly from region to region. 

"The completely unnecessary GDL strike affects the plans of millions of travelers," said operator spokeswoman Anja Bröker.

GDL chief Claus Weselsky on Thursday defended the stoppage as unavoidable, saying Deutsche Bahn's proposal contained "a whole series of points that were overall unacceptable to us."

In air travel, Lufthansa ground staff are staging a nationwide strike from Thursday into Saturday, while security staff at Frankfurt and Hamburg airports were also holding a one-day walkout on Thursday.

Operations at both hubs were expected to be severely hampered.

At Frankfurt — Germany's busiest airport — operator Fraport said 650 of Thursday's 1,750 planned flights had been canceled.

What are workers demanding?

Among other things, GDL is demanding a reduction in the working week for shift workers from 38 to 35 hours, with no change in payment to reflect the reduced hours.

Strike disrupts air travel in Germany

It is the fifth strike in a months-long wage dispute, with the union breaking off the most recent round of negotiations last Thursday after four weeks of talks with mediators.

GDL also warned that future strikes may be called without the 48-hour notice that has been given for strikes so far.

At Lufthansa, the Verdi union — which represents some 25,000 airline ground staff  — is demanding a 12.5% pay raise or at least €500 ($545) more per month. The union also wants a group-wide inflation compensation bonus of €3,000 with the possibility for another within one year.

Lufthansa has so far offered 10% more pay, with an inflation compensation bonus that would be the only such payment for 28 months.

The airline giant also announced on Thursday that its profits had doubled in 2023 — from €791 million in 2022 to €1.67 billion — as demand soared amid the recovery in the sector following the COVID pandemic.

rc/ab (dpa, AFP)

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