‘Mega strike’ hits Germany
Airports, bus stops, and train stations were at a standstill across Germany on Monday, as more than 400,000 public transportation employees took part in a 24-hour strike. The workers are demanding pay rises to compensate for inflation, which has soared in Germany since last year.
The strike began at midnight and is set to end at midnight on Tuesday. Eight major German airports were affected, with the German Airports Association estimating that around 380,000 travelers were left stranded. Munich Airport shut down entirely from Sunday onwards, with all flights canceled and its terminal deserted.
Deutsche Bahn said on Monday that all long-distance services were canceled, while regional services were only restarting in some areas by Monday evening. Trams, buses, and metro lines were also affected throughout the country.
Freight trains were halted too, as was shipping traffic in and out of Hamburg, Germany’s largest port and Europe’s third-busiest.
The strike is the result of demands for wage hikes issued by several major trade unions. Verdi, a public services union representing some 2.5 million employees, seeks a pay rise of 10.5%, but no less than €500. EVG, which represents around 230,000 employees at Deutsche Bahn and some other bus companies, demands a 12% wage increase but no less than €650.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told Reuters on Monday that an agreement between the government and the unions will likely be reached this week.
Roughly 400,000 workers took part in the strike, Verdi chief Frank Werneke told German media. Newspapers in Germany described the walkout as a “mega strike,” calling it the largest such disruption in decades.
Werneke told the German newspaper Bild that securing a pay rise is “a matter of survival for many thousands of employees” struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.
Once Europe’s economic powerhouse, Germany has seen its industrial output shrink and inflation rise to 8.7% in February, up from a steady rate of 0-2% between the mid-1990s and the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine last year.
Germany was heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil imports before the conflict, which all but ceased following the EU’s imposition of sanctions and the allegedly US-orchestrated destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines. Although the German government announced in January that the country would narrowly avoid a recession this year, credit ratings agency Fitch predicted earlier this month that the German economy will enter recession by late 2023.