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Strike wave hits German rail and airports as disputes mount

nationwide strike called by germany's train drivers union gdl over wage increases, in berlin
Passengers wait at the main train station during a nationwide strike called by Germany's train drivers union GDL over wage increases, in Berlin, Germany, March 7, 2024. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

Germany faced strikes on three fronts on Thursday, as train drivers, airport security workers and Lufthansa LHAG.DE ground staff walked off the job, spelling further headaches for millions of travellers in Europe’s largest economy.

The strikes are the latest in a wave of industrial actions to hit Germany, where high inflation and staff bottlenecks have soured wage negotiations in key parts of the transport sector, including national rail, air travel and public transport.

Train drivers began fresh strikes at 2 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Thursday, with national rail operator Deutsche Bahn DNB.UL warning travellers that it could run only a small fraction of its usual services.

During the previous strike in late January, Deutsche Bahn was able to operate one in five services.

The latest walkout, set to last 35 hours, marks the beginning of a wave of rail strikes planned by GDL as it pushes for reduced working hours at full pay.

Deutsche Bahn has accused the union of refusing to compromise.

Airports in Frankfurt, Germany’s busiest air hub, and Hamburg cancelled their departing flights on Thursday because of the striking security workers.

The airport association ADV said strikes in the aviation sector were damaging Germany’s reputation as a centre for business and tourism. It estimated that Thursday’s strike would affect the travel plans of more than 250,000 people.

The Verdi union is organising that strike as well as another by Lufthansa’s ground staff on Thursday and Friday.

Further woes were brewing for Germany’s flag airline after its cabin crews voted on Wednesday to strike, with the UFO union representing them assessing next steps.

Reporting its annual results on Thursday, Lufthansa warned that strikes were one of the factors that would lead to a higher than expected operating loss in the first three months of 2024.

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