Factbox-Germany hit by strikes as workers demand better pay and conditions
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has been hit by a series of strikes since the start of 2024 as unions press for higher wages and improved working conditions to make up for high inflation and staff shortages in Europe’s largest economy.
The industrial action has mainly targeted the transportation sector, affecting millions of travellers and commuters and inflicting economic pain.
Below is a list of the industrial actions being prepared or held within the sector and their impact:
LUFTHANSA: Various unions are currently negotiating higher wages with different Lufthansa branches.
In talks over contracts for ground staff, the Verdi union on Monday announced strikes for Wednesday.
Verdi is demanding a wage increase of 12.5% for 25,000 workers, or at least 500 euros ($538) more per month over a twelve month period, plus a one-time payment of 3,000 euros to offset inflation.
The union has argued that a higher cost of living and heavy workload due to staff shortages are grounds for higher pay.
Strikes are expected to have a major impact on Lufthansa’s flight operations. In July 2022, during the previous bargaining round, a one-day strike by ground staff prompted the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights, bringing air traffic at the Frankfurt and Munich hubs almost to a standstill.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Bus and tram stations across Germany were at a standstill on Feb. 2, disrupting millions of commuters and travellers, as 90,000 public transport workers were called out to strike to press for improved working conditions.
The strike was called by labour union Verdi in all federal states except Bavaria.
“We have a dramatic shortage of labour in public transport and incredible pressure on employees,” Verdi deputy chairwoman, Christine Behle, said in a statement.
Verdi listed reduced working hours and increased holiday entitlement as demands.
AIRPORT STAFF: Security staff at 11 German airports, including the global hub Frankfurt, walked off the job in a 24-hour strike on Feb. 1 to press for higher pay.
The union said it was demanding a pay rise of 2.80 euros per hour and more generous overtime on behalf of 25,000 workers.
Almost 200,000 travellers were affected by more than 1,100 flight cancellations or delays, the German airports association ADV said.
TRAIN DRIVERS: German train drivers waged one of their longest strikes to date from Wednesday Jan. 24 up till Sunday Jan. 28, after their union rejected state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn’s latest wage offer.
Deutsche Bahn and the GDL have been in dispute over a collective wage agreement since the beginning of November, with the union seeking a reduced working week for its shift workers, from 38 to 35 hours, on current wages.
The strike may cause economic damage worth a billion euros, taking into consideration that other transport routes have also been disrupted by the situation in the Red Sea, according to Michael Groemling from the IW Cologne economic institute.
TRUCK DRIVERS: Around 1,500 truck drivers gathered in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Jan. 19, disrupting traffic and logistics, to press for more investment in road infrastructure and the withdrawal of higher toll charges.
FARMERS: German farmers kicked off a week of nationwide protests against subsidy cuts on Monday Jan. 8, blocking roads with tractors and piling misery on Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition as it struggled to fix a budget mess.
Farmers called the protests in response to the government’s decision to phase out a tax break on agricultural diesel.
“For a farm like mine, I would lose about 10,000 euros,” said a farmer from Bavaria, Ralf Huber. “For our businesses, it’s a catastrophe.”
A backlash from farmers had already prompted Scholz’s coalition to make unexpected changes to the budget the week before. But farmers said this did not go far enough.
($1 = 0.9289 euros)
(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Klaus Lauer, Nette Nöstlinger; editing by Matthias Williams, William Maclean)