BERLIN, March 5 (Reuters) - A fresh round of public-sector strikes hit Germany on Wednesday as workers at the country’s biggest airports walked off the job and state-run institutions from hospitals to theatres and kindergartens were targeted.
The Verdi services union, which is trying to win an 8 percent wage increase for some 2 million federal and local government workers, said the west of the country and airports would be the focus of Wednesday’s stoppages.
Staff at Frankfurt airport operator Fraport FRAG.DE had stopped work early on Wednesday and the majority of domestic flights would not run according to plan, a Verdi spokesman said.
Airline Deutsche Lufthansa LHAG.DE on Tuesday urged passengers to take the train and said it would cut 142 mainly domestic flights. Intercontinental flights would not be affected, it added.
A Fraport spokesman said on Wednesday around 80 flights had been cancelled and there were some delays. Workers were expected to return to work during the morning but services would probably not be back to normal until Thursday, he added.
Tens of thousands of public-sector workers already took part in stoppages across northern and eastern states on Tuesday. More strikes are planned in the south on Thursday ahead of a fifth round of negotiations with employers.
A separate strike by transport workers in Berlin on Wednesday brought subway, tram and bus services to a halt and combined with snow flurries to cause travel misery for thousands of commuters.
Dubbed a “mega wage year” by one of Germany’s leading unions, 2008 has already seen a 5.2 percent pay rise for steel workers, their biggest in 16 years.
Economists say generous wage increases, if used as a benchmark, could threaten price stability and make the European Central Bank (ECB) less likely to reduce borrowing costs.
In a separate dispute, the GDL train drivers’ union said on Tuesday it could hold strikes on German passenger and freight services from next week, escalating a months-long spat with rail operator Deutsche Bahn [DBN.UL]. (Reporting by Iain Rogers; Additional reporting by Angelika Gruber in Frankfurt; Editing by Charles Dick)
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