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Thu, Mar 06, 2008

German Workers' Strike Affects Airports, Flights

Over 1.3 Million Public Service Employees Want Better Pay

Public service workers throughout Germany made good on their threats to walk off the job Tuesday, leading to turmoil at airports throughout the country, and thousands of passengers stuck at the gate.

The Associated Press reports hundreds of flights were affected by the walkout by thousands of baggage handlers, ticket counter workers, and ground crew workers represented by the ver.di union. Airport firefighters also reportedly joined in the strike, as a show of solidarity with other public service workers.

At Frankfurt International Airport alone, over 2,000 workers struck Wednesday morning, according to union rep Frank Bsirske. "Either the public employers make an offer with clear salary increases and without increased work hours, or we will show them our strength," Bsirske said at a rally.

Bus drivers and subway operators also walked off the job early Wednesday.

Ver.di has called for an eight percent raise for Germany's 1.3 million public service workers, retroactive to January 1. The government has countered with a five-percent raise offer, to be implemented over the next two years... and accompanied by a longer work week. The union trounced that plan.

Over 100 flights were cancelled Wednesday in Munich, according to spokesman Peter Pruemm. Another 69 flights were cancelled in Hamburg, with similar effects felt at airports in Duesseldorf, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Saarbruecken, Cologne-Bonn, Dortmund and Muenster-Osnabrueck.

German flag carrier Lufthansa said in cancelled 142 flights throughout the country, though none of its transcontinental flights were affected.

The union wants better pay for its workers, saying the wealth from Germany's recent economic upswing is distributed unfairly. In recent weeks, automaker BMW AG and mobile phone manufacturer Nokia have announced layoffs, despite healthy profits.

"We can hold out for a very, very long time," Frank Baesler, the ver.di representative in Berlin, told RBB radio.



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