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Travel turmoil expected as Berlin airport crews launch yet another strike

Berlin's two airports will both be hits by strikes on Friday, as ground crews protest labour conditions. Delays and cancellations are expected.

Travel turmoil expected as Berlin airport crews launch yet another strike
Berlin's Tegel airport. Photo: DPA.

The union Verdi on Thursday called for its 2,000 ground crew members to strike on Friday at both Tegel and Schönefeld airports. The strike is to start at 4am on Friday and end on Saturday at 5am.

The Berlin-Brandenburg Airport Association said that there would likely be disruption to flight schedules as a result, as well as cutbacks on flights. As of Thursday at about 2pm, Tegel airport reported at least 70 flights cancelled, including for Lufthansa, Germanwings, Brussels Airlines, British Airways and Iberia Express.

Schönefeld has only reported two cancellations so far.

The association also advised travellers to pay attention to their flight statuses as changes may occur.

The union has demanded a pay raise of one euro per hour for work contract terms of at least one year. Currently ground crew members earn on average €11 per hour.

The union has been negotiating with a group representing companies that provide ground transport services to airports. The employers’ group on Tuesday offered a pay raise of 8 percent over the course of three years, but the union rejected this proposal.

“Unfortunately a strike is inevitable because the employers have still not delivered a suitable offer, and it seems that it’s not currently possible to negotiate an agreement,” said Verdi negotiator Enrico Rümker.

The employers’ group called the new strikes “irresponsible”, saying the action pushes finding a solution further into the distance.

“We have done everything within our power to avoid a strike,” said a spokesperson for the employers’ group.

Verdi already held strikes last month at Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart airports amid an ongoing labour negotiation dispute. 

More than 100 flights were cancelled at the beginning of February during strikes, and dozens more were cancelled during another round of strikes that month.

CHRISTMAS

Strikes hit Amazon in Germany in the run up to Christmas

Around 2,500 Amazon employees at seven sites across Germany were on strike on Tuesday and unions warned stoppages could continue up to Christmas.

Amazon parcel in factory
A parcel rolls along a conveyor belt at an Amazon packing facility in Gera, Thuringia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

The strikes at so-called “fulfilment” centres, where Amazon prepares packages before delivery, began in two locations on Monday.

The Verdi union is calling on Amazon for an “immediate” salary increase of three percent this year, followed by a further 1.7 percent next year, in line with a collective agreement for the retail sector, to which the e-commerce giant does not adhere.

Amazon could not continue to “refuse wage increases that other companies in the sector pay”, Verdi retail head Orhan Akman said in a statement Monday.

Amazon, which operates 17 centres in Germany, argues it is a logistics company, a sector in which the terms of work are considered to be less burdensome for the employer.

Amazon said it did not expect the strike to have an impact on clients.

However, a Verdi spokesman said the stoppage could cause disruption, particularly in Amazon’s rapid-delivery “Prime” offering.

Strikes were likely to continue “until the end of the year”, the spokesman said, impacting on the busy Christmas shopping period.

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Verdi, which first called for strikes at Amazon in May 2013, organised demonstrations outside the fulfilment centres on Tuesday to protest poor working conditions.

Amazon — which has seen its business boom during the coronavirus pandemic as consumers increasingly shopped online — announced in September that it would open eight new centres in Germany, creating 3,000 jobs by 2022.

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