Services union Ver.di managed to halt air traffic at six German airports on Wednesday as it used strike action to push for more pay for the 2.1 million public sector workers it represents.
The industrial action, which has affected tens of thousands of passengers, is designed to pile the pressure on employers ahead of the next round of talks that commences on Thursday.
However, airlines are being caught in the crossfire. Carriers, including Lufthansa and Air Berlin, were forced to cancel hundreds of flights due to the strikes by airport ground staff, including security guards and firefighters.
Following warning strikes on Tuesday by workers in daycare centers, municipal administrations, swimming pools and trash collection services, Ver.di is now taking aim at Munich, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Cologne/Bonn, Dortmund and Hanover airports. Munich Airport, which is seeing a full-day walkout, said around 700 of its scheduled 1,100 takeoffs and landings had been canceled.
While Ver.di had announced the strikes last week, the full extent of the planned action only became clear on Tuesday.
Ver.di and the Civil Service Association are demanding a 6-percent pay increase for the more than 2.1 million federal and local public sector employees. The employers have proposed a 3-percent increase in pay rates for two years, to be implemented in two stages. German municipalities estimate the costs would amount to €2.7 billion, or $3.05 billion, while the federal government anticipates it would cost it at least €400 million.