Multiple strikes cancel German flights, stall city transport

BERLIN -- Two separate strikes wreak havoc on mobility in the German capital and at Frankfurt International Airport, Europe's third busiest.
Written by Shannon Smith, Correspondent (Berlin)

BERLIN — Union-led strikes caused severe transportation disruptions in two major German cities, including Europe’s third-largest airport, over the past seven days.

Germany's Union for Flight Security (GdF) went ahead with a controversial strike of tarmac traffic controllers at Frankfurt International Airport last Thursday against the wishes of the country's largest service union Ver.di. The move resulted in well-over a thousand domestic and intra-European flight cancellations, even a day after the strike ended Wednesday, according to the Financial Times Deutschland.

Meanwhile, Ver.di led a separate strike of Berlin’s public transport employees Saturday, leaving the capital’s entire service of subways, buses and trams at a near-complete standstill.

Despite employing short-term replacement staff to handle as many flights as possible, the financial burden of Frankfurt's walk-out on airport operator Fraport appeared to linger, as a speaker told daily newspaper Bild that an estimated 5 million euros in turnover were lost during the five-day strike.

Of course we want to increase pressure,” GdF speaker Matthias Maas said to Bild early Wednesday before Fraport agreed to return to the negotiating table. He criticized the company for replacing strikers with quickly trained staff, whose inexperience on the job he called “negligent and dangerous.”

Representatives from Fraport and GdF will spend Thursday at an undisclosed location hashing out the details of wage increases for some 200 ramp employees, including air traffic controllers, according to the Financial Times Deutschland.

Meanwhile in Berlin, no replacement service was offered by city public transport operator BVG when some 12,500 employees went on strike Saturday. The weekend marked the end of the Berlinale International Film Festival as well as city soccer team Hertha's game against Dortmund, leaving thousands of spectators with few alternatives.

An online survey of Berliner Morgenpost readers revealed that 64% of readers do not sympathize with the union's position which resulted in Saturday's strike, while 32% say they do. Ver.di announced Wednesday that no further strikes would take place before February 29th if BVG still agrees to concessions at that point.

Photo: Flickr/Andres Rueda

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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