Labor Demands

As Strikes Spread, Lufthansa Cancels Flights

Beschäftigte des öffentlichen Dienstes nehmen am 26.04.2016 in München (Bayern) an einer Kundgebung teil. Verdi fordert für die zwei Millionen Beschäftigten des öffentlichen Dienstes des Bundes und der Kommunen unter anderem sechs Prozent mehr Geld. Foto: Sven Hoppe/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Strikes in Germany's public sector are spreading across the country as workers demand a 6-percent wage increase. Sourced: Sven Hoppe / DPA
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Strikes are disrupting public-sector services across Germany, hitting the economy and putting pressure on municipalities and the government to pay hefty wage increases.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Strikes on Tuesday targeted daycare centers, bus transport and municipal services.
    • Lufthansa canceled all of its Wednesday’s intercontinental flights at Munich airport due to the strikes.
    • Union Ver.di is demanding a 6-percent wage increase for around 2.14 million workers in the public sector, but employers have so far only offered 3 percent.
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    Audio

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Municipal childcare centers, bus companies and hospitals across German either shut down or limited service on Tuesday, as thousands of workers went on strike to demand a 6-percent wage increase.

The strikes, organized by labor union Ver.di, will spread to public workers at airports, including the country’s largest in Munich and Frankfurt on Wednesday. Lufthansa has canceled 895 flights, or 60 percent of around 1,500 flights normally scheduled for Wednesday, affecting 87,000 passengers, Europe’s largest carrier said.

Over the past few months, several smaller-scale strikes have already taken place in the public sector, for instance, in hospitals and municipalities.

The number of strikes in Germany has been on the rise since last year, when 2 million working days were lost, compared with 392,000 in 2014.

Lufthansa has canceled all intercontinental flights to and from Munich on Wednesday, and cut many other international and domestic routes from the airport. The airline has also canceled a small number of international flights to and from Frankfurt’s airport and most of the carrier’s domestic and European flights scheduled for Wednesday.

The Cologne-based company has been forced to trim its flight offerings because the strikes affect critical security checks, ground staff and airport fire services.

“The Düsseldorf, Cologne-Bonn, Dortmund and Hanover airports will also suffer flight cancellations as a result of the Verdi strike,” Lufthansa said.

The number of strikes in Germany has been on the rise since last year, when 2 million working days were lost, compared with 392,000 in 2014, according to data from research institute WSI, which has ties to Germany’s labor movement.

In the past two years, major work outages have hit Lufthansa, rail operator Deutsche Bahn and daycare centers for children.

Ver.di has also repeatedly organized strikes at online retailer Amazon, demanding pay according to Germany’s collective labor agreement for the retail and mail-order sector.

 

Strikes in Germany and Abroad-01

 

Although economic growth is relatively modest at around 1.7 percent, employment has continued to rise and the number of jobless people has fallen since 2010, strengthening the hands of workers and unions to demand wage incrases. Around 6.5 percent of the labor population was without work in March.

At Volkswagen, burdened by its diesel emissions scandal, labor representatives have signaled they are ready to call strikes to stop big bonus cuts for rank-and-file workers.

German union Ver.di organized this week’s the strike to demand more pay for workers in the public sector, which employs 2.14 million people at public transport firms, municipalities, airports and other organizations nationwide. The German state has offered a wage increase of 3 percent.

The union is organizing the strikes to send a signal to the employers, Ver.di said in a statement last week. The parties will start a third round of negotiations on Thursday.

 

Gilbert Kreijger is an editor with Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin, covering companies and markets. To contact the author:  kreijger@handelsblatt.com

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