Ground crews at Berlin airports reach pay deal to end strikes

Ground crews at airports in Berlin have reached a pay deal with employers after repeated strikes that have grounded flights in recent weeks, the two sides said on Tuesday.

Ground crews at Berlin airports reach pay deal to end strikes
Striking workers at Berlin Schönefeld Airport. Photo: DPA

Around 2,000 workers at the city's Tegel and Schönefeld airports could see hourly wages increase by as much as 14 percent, or €1.90 after the deal.

Service workers' union Verdi “was able to achieve a vital goal” in the talks, chief negotiator Enrico Rümker said, highlighting improvements to non-wage conditions.

But the union also had to make “wide-ranging and painful compromises,” he added.

Employers had “gone to the limits of the achievable and … beyond” to strike the deal, said a spokesman for ground services companies in Berlin and surrounding Brandenburg state.

Nevertheless, it was important to the firms that the three-year no-strike deal provides “long-term certainty for planning,” he added.

Ground crew walked out several times in February and March, forcing the cancellation of some 2,000 flights to and from the capital, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

Union members must still vote on the deal, with a ballot planned for next week.


Berlin Schönefeld airport set to close in March 2021

Now operating as a terminal in the new BER airport, the former Schönefeld airport is set to stop operations in March 2021 in a bid to cut costs.

Berlin Schönefeld airport set to close in March 2021
The former Schönefeld airport, which is currently being used a Terminal 5 of the new BER airport. Photo: DPA

Since the Berlin Brandenburg airport (BER) opened after a nine-year delay on October 31st, Schönefeld (SXF) Airport automatically became BER Terminal 5. 

READ ALSO: Berlin Brandenburg (BER) airport to finally open following nine-year delay

But in light of dwindling passenger numbers, Schönefeld is set to close in March 2021.

However, the former airport – known for being a hub for discount flights in the south of Berlin – will initially close for one year, before the BER airport committee reviews whether to keep it closed permanently. 

“We have to think about whether we really need T5 in 2021,” said airport boss Lütke Daldrup. He pointed out that airport traffic in Berlin in 2020 has been only a tenth of what it was the previously year. 

“All German airports together are expecting a decline in profits of 75 percent in 2020 and a drop of 65 percent in 2021 compared to 2019,” Daldrup told the Berliner Morgenpost on Sunday.

Flight traffic is currently experiencing as dramatic a dip as it did in the spring, amid a more stringent lockdown in Germany, said Daldrup. 

Air traffic experienced a brief revival over the summer, however, which is why Tegel airport was kept open a few months longer than initially planned.

The northern Berlin airport saw its last flight depart on November 8th. 

READ ALSO: Berlin's airport closes following last flight to Tegel

Both the main Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 at BER are slated to remain open, with some airlines at Schönefeld shifting over following the closure.

The discount airlines Ryanair and WizzAir are especially affected by the move, reported the Morgenpost, as they will have to pay greater fees to park at the modernised BER. 

According to current calculations, BER's airport company needs another €500 to €550 million for the coming year, as Finance Senator Matthias Kollatz of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) recently said.

Daldrup said he therefore did not expect much resistance to the closure of Schönefeld, which is located about 20 kilometres south of the centre of Berlin.