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Air and rail strikes threaten to paralyze Germany

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Air and rail strikes threaten to paralyze Germany
Hospital workers on strike near Leipzig. Photo: DPA
17:30 CET+01:00
German train drivers and airport workers will stage nationwide strikes in the coming days. In a country known for it's love of order, these strikes, combined with other service industry strikes could wreak havoc on German commerce.

The months-long conflict between German train driver union GDL and state-owned train system Deutsche Bahn escalated on Tuesday. GDL says they will begin a nationwide, open-ended strike at midnight on Monday morning unless the trade deal they reached with Deutsche Bahn in January is finalized this week.

Deutsche Bahn's personnel director Margret Suckale said on Tuesday that she doesn't think the 11 percent salary increase justifies "paralyzing Germany again." GDL staged several strikes last year when negotiations broke down.

The GDL strike comes as service workers in other industries strike across the nation in unrelated wage conflicts. On Tuesday, garbage collectors, nurses, and bus drivers, stage hands, daycare workers and other workers in 11 of Germany's 16 states all walked off the job as a warning to state-sector employers.

Meanwhile airline passengers can expect massive delays in several German cities on Wednesday morning, when the umbrella public employee's union Verdi and the Police officer's union plan to broaden the warning strikes to include their sectors. The strike by security, police, administrative workers and luggage handlers will affect airports in Frankfurt am Main, Düsseldorf, Cologne-Bonn, Hamburg, Hanover, Stuttgart and Saarbrücken.

Lufthansa plans to cancel 142 flights, most of which are in-country. The airline suggests that passengers for those flights take the Deutsche Bahn, which won't be on strike just yet. Airline boarding passes will be accepted on the trains as tickets, the airline said.

The unions hope to put pressure on employers to accept their salary demands at a meeting in Potsdam this Thursday. They represent some 1.3 million public service workers at municipal, state and federal levels, and hope to win workers either €200 more each month, or an 8 percent salary increase.

So far, employers have offered a two-step salary increase of 5 percent, and an increase in work week hours from 38.5 to 40 hours per week.

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