Protests for wages bring rail and air traffic to a standstill in Germany


March 27, 2023 | 4:33 am

BERLIN – Trains, planes and public transport systems came to a standstill across much of Germany on Monday as labor unions called a one-day strike over pay in a bid to beat inflation for their members.

The 24-hour walkout also affected freight transport by rail and ship as workers at the country’s ports and waterways joined the strike.

Many commuters chose to drive, causing delays on the roads, while those who could work from home.

Unions are demanding a minimum wage hike of 10.5%, and have rejected offers of a 5% wage increase at two levels and a one-time payment.

The high inflation seen elsewhere last year has hit many workers hard, said Ulrich Silberbach of the Civil Service Federation.

“We have registered a fall in real wages and these have to be balanced,” he told reporters in Berlin, adding that some members of his union in big cities had to apply for state benefits for rent.

Trains are parked near the central station in Frankfurt, Germany on March 27, 2023.
Workers protest at Munich’s main train station during a nationwide strike called by German trade unions on March 27, 2023 in Munich, Germany.

Silberbach said he hopes employers will increase their offer in the upcoming negotiations — if not, unions may have to consider an open strike.

Rail giant Deutsche Bahn warned the union’s demands were excessive and would affect millions of commuters.

“Thousands of companies that normally send or receive their goods by rail will also be affected,” Deutsche Bahn spokesman Achim Strauss said. “The environment and the climate will ultimately suffer. “Today’s winners are the oil companies,” he said.

A man walks on the platform at the main train station in Frankfurt, Germany, during a strike on March 27, 2023.
Train signals turn red near the tracks in Berlin, Germany on March 27, 2023.

He said that train tickets that could not be used due to the disruption would remain valid and passengers should check the company’s website for updates.

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Labor strikes are a regular occurrence in Germany and usually end in a compromise agreement between unions and employers.

The walkout had already caused disruption and delays on Sunday as commuters scrambled to reach their seats early.

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