Reader question: Will German airports see more strikes at Easter?

Security staff at several of Germany's airports have staged a number of walkouts amid a dispute over pay and conditions with their employer. Will trade union Verdi call more strikes?

Departure board shows several flights cancelled at Hamburg airport on Tuesday.
Departure board shows several flights cancelled at Hamburg airport on Tuesday March 22nd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

Several full days of strike action have been held in the last weeks, effectively bringing air travel in some parts of Germany – including Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin – to a standstill.

The strikes grounded hundreds of flights on each day of action, affecting tens of thousands of travellers. 

Some readers have reached out to us to ask if more strikes are planned, particularly around Easter in mid-April when many people are planning trips or are welcoming visitors.

READ ALSO: Eight German airports hit by security staff strikes

We approached trade union Verdi, which represents the affected workers, last week and a spokesman told us that talks were ongoing and he could not say if more strikes were planned.

But there’s good news: on Monday this week, Verdi said that a collective agreement between airport security staff and employers had been reached. 

It means that the threat of more strikes has been averted.

The news will come as a big relief to people who are planning to travel in or out of Germany in the coming weeks. 

The breakthrough came in the sixth round of negotiations, after talks broke down again on Friday.

The Federal Association of Aviation Security Companies (BDLS) confirmed the agreement on Monday. 

Three-stage pay rise

The union Verdi has been negotiating with the employers’ association on wage increases for 25,000 security staff nationwide, among other issues.

According to Verdi, a three-step wage increase was agreed for a period of 24 months, with different amounts for the individual wage groups.

Verdi said the pay increase for the current year will be between 4.4 and 7.8 percent. The further steps depend on the wage group and the region, among other points. The adjustment of wages between east and west is to be completed by January 1st, 2024.

“The employers have finally presented an acceptable offer,” Verdi negotiator Wolfgang Pieper said on Monday.

“This collective agreement succeeds in making wage conditions in the aviation security industry and work more attractive despite unfavourable working hours and numerous operational problems.”

BDLS negotiator Rainer Friebertshäuser said wage increases in some cases would be up to 28.2 percent.

But Friebertshäuser said the agreed package “means massive cost increases for the employers, which are a particular burden in the current economic situation of the sector and hurt a lot”.

Verdi had originally demanded an increase of at least one euro in the hourly wage for the approximately 25,000 employees over a period of only twelve months. In addition, there were to be nationwide adjustments at the highest regional level from Baden-Württemberg as well as standardised wage groups. The employers had recently proposed increases in four stages over a longer period.

“The large participation in the warning strikes in recent weeks has strengthened us in the negotiations and made it clear to the employers that they had to take a real step towards the workers (in negotiations),” said Verdi.

Germany has a strong trade union tradition and strikes can often be called during collective agreement negotiations across industries. 

READ ALSO: Should I join a union in Germany?

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When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, considers the beginning of March to be a realistic start date.

The only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023.

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket is continuing to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

Burkert from EVG said that the federal government should be prepared to provide more than €1.5 billion for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.