Widespread flight cancellations in German strikes

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

BERLIN -- Hundreds of flights were canceled at airports across Germany on Thursday after ground crews, baggage handlers and other public workers walked off the job to press their demands for higher pay.

At Frankfurt airport alone, one of Europe's busiest, 550 takeoffs and landings were canceled by mid-morning. Lufthansa, Germany's largest airline, said it had canceled 600 flights across the country, about a third of its total.

In all, workers in seven airports — Frankfurt, Munich, Duesseldorf, Hamburg, Cologne, Stuttgart and Hannover — were participating in the strike. Most of the flights canceled were those within Europe.

Warning strikes are a common tactic used by German unions to put pressure on employers amid wage negotiations, and Thursday's walkouts come ahead of a third round of talks next week for some 2.1 million federal and municipal employees.

In addition to airports, public-service workers in preschools, hospitals, libraries, and scores of other areas were also taking part in the one-day warning strike, said Ver.di union spokesman Christoph Schmitz.

He said it was not immediately clear how many people were participating, but that it was expected to be in the tens of thousands.

Ver.di is looking for a 100 euro ($138) monthly increase for all workers, in addition to a 3.5 percent wage increase. That would translate to an average 6.73 percent wage rise for the public sector employees, Schmitz said.

Lufthansa has been critical of the strike, saying that it would cost the airline millions of euros "even though we play no part whatsoever in this pay dispute."

"Ver.di is quite prepared to exploit non-involved parties — whether individuals or companies — in the pursuit of union objectives," said Lufthansa spokeswoman Bettina Volkens in a statement. "We particularly regret the fact that our customers will suffer as a result."(AP)

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