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German unions call major transport strike

Strikes have been multiplying across Germany, as workers press for higher wages due to soaring inflation. —AFP
Strikes have been multiplying across Germany, as workers press for higher wages due to soaring inflation. —AFP

FRANKFURT: Transport across much of German will be paralysed on Monday as workers strike demanding higher wages to cope with surging inflation, the latest industrial action in Europe's top economy.

Staff at airports, ports, the railways, buses and subways will walk out across large parts of the country, the Verdi and EVG unions announced on Thursday.

"We think there will be extensive participation in the strike," Verdi chief Frank Werneke told a press conference.

EVG chief Martin Burkert accused employers -- who have mostly refused hefty pay demands -- of "turning a blind eye to the economic hardship of the workers that we represent".

It follows a series of strikes in recent months in Germany in numerous areas, from the postal service to airports and local transport.

Like in many other countries, Germans are struggling with high inflation -- it hit 8.7 per cent in February -- after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent food and energy costs soaring.

Verdi represents some 2.5 million public sector employees, while EVG represents workers on the railways and at bus companies.

The announcement of fresh industrial action came ahead of a third round of salary negotiations for public sector workers, which begin on Monday.

Transport services have already been hit by strikes.

Earlier in March, Bremen, Berlin, Hamburg and Hanover airports cancelled more than 350 flights after security staff walked out while bus and metro staff in Frankfurt also staged a strike.

On the other side, employers representatives are warning that unions are making unreasonable demands and risk alienating the public with the growing wave of strike action.

"What impression is created of the public service, especially at a time when we are talking about a disproportionate shortage of skilled workers?" said Karin Welge, from the Confederation of Municipal Employers' Associations.

"We have a common duty to strengthen the public service."

Some unions have however succeeded in winning big pay increases.

Postal workers won average monthly increases of 11.5 per cent earlier in March, and in November IG Metall, Germany's biggest union, won hikes totally 8.5 per cent for almost four million employees that it represents.

Strikes have spread across public services, from hospitals to nurseries, as the hard-fought pay talks play out. — AFP

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