FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany’s main airports were hit by a strike on Thursday as public sector workers raised pressure on the government in pay talks.
The strike affected airports across the country including Frankfurt, Europe’s third-largest hub, and Munich, both of which are mainly served by Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest airline.
To prevent the kind of chaos caused by a security workers’ strike last month, when thousands of passengers were stuck in the Frankfurt terminals, Lufthansa canceled a third of flights scheduled for Thursday. That includes almost all domestic and European short-haul flights during the strike period until 1300 GMT.
That meant airports such as Frankfurt and Munich remained largely quiet and queue-free.
While many Frankfurt airport staff are privately employed, there are still around 6,000 public sector workers in areas such as baggage handling, security and ground work.
Trade union Verdi said on Thursday that some 1,500 workers were taking part in the industrial action at Frankfurt.
Other airlines such as Etihad, British Airways, TUIFly, Condor and Air Berlin took measures such as shifting flight times, moving departures to Duesseldorf, or encouraging people to travel with only hand baggage.
At Frankfurt, around 550 flights were canceled, a spokesman said. The airport usually operates 1,200-1,400 flights on a typical Thursday.
Operations are expected to get back to normal quickly once the strike ends, but the disruption will still cost Lufthansa several million euros, a spokeswoman said.
The walkout is part of wider industrial action by public sector workers including local transport staff and child carers.
Trade unions want pay rises of 3.5 percent plus an extra 100 euros ($140) per month for about 2.1 million federal and municipal public sector workers. That would amount to a total increase of 6.7 percent, they say.
The government says it is willing to accept a pay increase but that the demands are too high.
Frank Bsirske, the head of Verdi, said he wanted to achieve a deal in the next round of pay talks scheduled for the start of next week.
“We want to take part in the economic upturn,” he said on Thursday.
Data this week showed that income expectations, which were at a more than 13-month high in February, fell in March but remained strong thanks to a robust labour market, which fuelled expectations that negotiated wages would rise more steeply. This year, market researcher GfK said workers in pay negotiations were likely to get increases of 3 percent or more.
Reporting by Victoria Bryan, Peter Maushagen, Kirsti Knolle and Ralf Bode; editing by Mark Potter and Tom Pfeiffer