Transport Turmoil

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In Germany, Paralysis Nears as Rail, Air Unions Threaten Strikes

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Germany could face transport chaos this week should rail engineers and airline pilots go on strike.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany may face extensive strikes as Lufthansa pilots and railroad workers across the country call for wage increases.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Negotiations over pay between Lufthansa and its pilots, and German rail provider Deutsche Bahn and its workers, have not yet succeeded and the disputes are likely to escalate.
    • The German government is considering a new law which could restrict the number of unions in each industry.
    • After a decade of moderation, Germany’s trade unions have begun to call for higher pay.
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    Audio

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Just as Germans are returning from their summer holidays, two small, but powerful unions are threatening to bring Europe’s largest economy to a transport standstill.

Pilots at Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest airline, have warned that they could strike at any moment. Normally, travelers would switch to trains but locomotive engineers at Deutsche Bahn, the national railroad, are also threatening work stoppages.

The gridlock could be brought about by a group of 43,000 pilots, train conductors and locomotive engineers, who together have the ability to paralyze the country.

The Vereinigung Cockpit, a union representing Lufthansa pilots, on Friday threatened a new round of strikes in a long-running dispute over wages and early retirement benefits.

The union said pilots may strike “immediately” as negotiations have stalled.

A strike by Lufthansa pilots in April saw 3,800 flights cancelled and 425,000 passengers stranded. Lufthansa calculates that the industrial action cost it €60 million.

The main sticking point is pilots want Lufthansa to keep paying a “transition” benefit for those who retire early, while the airline wants to cut extra payments for new hires. Pilots can currently take early retirement at 55 and enjoy 60 percent of their salary for almost 10 years.

They are also demanding a 10 percent salary increase.

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