Admin l Wednesday, January 25, 2023
BERLIN -The terminal buildings of Berlin’s international airport were virtually empty on Wednesday morning, with all passenger flights cancelled or rescheduled due to a day-long strike by staff.
Around 1,500 workers gathered in front of the main terminal building of the Berlin-Brandenburg (BER) airport on Wednesday afternoon, equipped with yellow vests, whistles and flags of the Verdi trade union. Verdi had called on about 6,000 airport workers, security staff and ground handlers to walk off the job.
The union is demanding wage increases of €500 ($540) per month for the employees of the airport company and the ground handling services over a 12-month collective bargaining contract. Employers have pushed for a much longer contract in negotiations.
About 35,000 passengers had originally been scheduled to pass through the airport on roughly 300 flights on Wednesday. Airlines have postponed some flights to Thursday and diverted several flights to airports in Dresden and Leipzig. Other passengers have been rebooked on trains.
Only occasional passengers arrived who had not heard about the strike.
“It was not a question of if, but when,” said Holger Rößler, who negotiates on behalf of the workers in the talks with the airport company and has been involved in negotiations for more than 20 years.
There have been tough disputes in the past, but with high inflation the situation is more complicated, he said.
The mood has been very frustrating lately, said Dirk Litschke, who works in baggage handling at BER. The sickness rate is high, many colleagues have problems with their backs or hips. During the rally in front of the terminal, he said that the starting salary for ground services was currently €14.25 an hour.
Union secretary Enrico Rümker stressed that the timing of the work stoppage had been chosen carefully.
“We can already say: there will be no more strikes during the winter holidays in Berlin and Brandenburg (January 30 to February 3),” he told dpa.
The airport has said little about the negotiations since the strike announcement on Monday.
“Results are achieved at the negotiating table. Our aim is therefore to reach a result in the further negotiation meeting on February 8,” said Michael Halberstadt, managing director human resources and chief negotiator.
The next round of negotiations for ground services is scheduled for Monday. The last time labour unrest in Germany cancelled so many flights came during a major nationwide strike in April 2018. Hundreds of flights across the country were cancelled after tens of thousands of municipal and federal government workers walked off the job.
That strike also affected public transport, daycare centres, health clinics, government administrative offices and public swimming pools in many parts of Germany.