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26 Mar, 2023 19:06

Germany braces for biggest strike in decades – Bild

The country is set to be “paralyzed” on Monday as public transport workers will reportedly protest for wage increases
Germany braces for biggest strike in decades – Bild

Public transportation throughout Germany will come to a halt on Monday, potentially leaving the 83-million-strong nation in a state of “traffic chaos,” Bild warned on Sunday. What is being called the largest nationwide strike in decades has been organized by several powerful trade unions.

All long-distance train services of the German national railway operator, Deutsche Bahn, will be completely halted because of the strike, the company said. Regional train services will be drastically reduced, while short-distance city rail, known in Germany as the S-Bahn, will also not be in operation, it added.

All bus, train and tram traffic will likely be brought to a standstill by expected general strikes in six German states – Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, with parts of Bavaria also likely to be affected, Germany’s Stern magazine reported.

The country’s airport association, ADV, already estimated that some 380,000 travelers will be unable to fly on Monday because of the strike. This comes ahead of the Easter holidays in Germany, which start on Monday in Lower Saxony and the city of Bremen.

Stern warned of “traffic chaos” on highways, while Bild called the planned work stoppage “the worst strike in 31 years,” adding that Germany last experienced something similar back in 1992. Stern also described it as a “declaration of war on … the country’s infrastructure providers.” 

The strike is the result of demands for wage hikes issued by several major trade unions. The public services union, Verdi, seeks a pay rise of 10.5%, but no less than €500 for some 2.5 million public employees. The railway and transport union (EVG) demands a 12% wage increase but no less than €650. The unions blame inflation and rising commodity prices for the crisis.

A “sufficiently high” minimum wage is required for employees with low to middle incomes to successfully weather the effects of price hikes, the head of Verdi, Frank Werneke, told Bild. “They are hit hardest by inflation. Everyone has to fill the fridge. Food prices have risen sharply, as have electricity and gas,” he argued.

Germany, along with other EU states, encountered economic difficulties last year as the bloc embarked on a gradual reduction of its reliance on Russian energy supplies. Although the EU did not ban Russian pipeline gas imports, flows dwindled significantly due to Ukraine-related sanctions and the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline. Earlier in March, the Ifo Institute for Economic Research warned that Germany could face a recession in 2023.