By Patrick T Neumann and Till Bücker, dpa
DUSSELDORF – A day-long strike began at Germany’s Dusseldorf airport early Friday morning, a spokesperson for the trade union Verdi confirmed.
The union called on the 700 employees of the baggage and aircraft handler Aviapartner to take part in the work stoppage, which began at 3:30 am (0230 GMT) and is scheduled to end at 0:30 am on Saturday morning.
Half of all flights at the airport have already been cancelled, the spokesperson said. In addition, there were delays.
According to the airport, a total of 290 flights were planned for Friday. Of these, 101 – about a third – were cancelled, airport spokesman Marcus Schaff told dpa in the morning. “However, since the airlines informed their passengers in advance about the cancellations and replacement offers, the situation in the terminal is calm and relaxed.”
The participation rate in the strike was around 90% in the morning, according to Verdi. “The participation is very good, the effects are as planned,” the Verdi spokesman said.
Aviapartner has a market share of about 75% at Dusseldorf Airport, he said. A total of up to 350 employees would normally be on duty on Friday. The airport is the largest in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, and the third largest in Germany in terms of passenger volume.
The reason for the strike is a new contract for handling services, in which Aviapartner did not win. According to Verdi, 700 jobs are at risk. Aviapartner is now refusing a welfare plan with severance pay for the workers threatened with job losses.
One of the new service providers at Dusseldorf Airport will be WISAG from April 1. Since the announcement of the licence decision at the end of December, the company has been “intensively preparing for its start at the largest airport in NRW [North Rhine Westphalia],” WISAG announced on Friday.
Already on Wednesday, strikes in Berlin by employees of the airport company, ground services and aviation security brought passenger traffic at BER Airport to a standstill. With the action, Verdi wanted to increase the pressure on the employers’ side before the next negotiations.
“Obviously, Verdi has discovered German airports as a media-effective stage for strike actions,” Ralph Beisel, chief executive of the airport association ADV, said on Friday.
He said it was irresponsible for the second major airport in Germany to be subjected to a day-long strike within a week. “When an entire region is cut off from international air traffic, this no longer has anything to do with a warning strike,” Beisel said.