Hundreds of flights canceled in Germany as airports hit by strikes

German public sector workers union Verdi leader Frank Bsirske delivers a speech during the strike at the Frankfurt airport in demand for higher wages on April 10. (Reuters)
Updated 10 April 2018
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Hundreds of flights canceled in Germany as airports hit by strikes

FRANKFURT: Thousands of passengers were left stranded at German airports on Tuesday as ground staff and other public sector workers staged walkouts across the country to increase the pressure in a pay dispute.
Lufthansa had said that it was canceling more than 800 of its planned 1,600 flights on Tuesday and Frankfurt airport operator Fraport had warned of disruption.
As well as Frankfurt, Germany’s busiest hub for airlines, airports in Munich, Cologne and Bremen were hit. The industrial action also affected nurseries, rubbish collection services and swimming pools in several German states.
German union Verdi wants a 6 percent pay rise for its 2.3 million public sector employees at the federal and local level. Germany’s federal government and municipalities have rejected that, saying such a rise would force them to outsource jobs.
Some passengers expressed frustration over the delays.
“I’m upset. I’m affected by these strikes too often,” said Roswitha Karl, who was at Frankfurt airport waiting to board a flight to Moldova for a holiday.
“First, there was the pilots’ strike, then the ground staff and then the security staff, it’s a matter of luck,” said Karl.
Airline rebooking counters had a long queue of passengers, while other stranded travelers were waiting in the terminal. While some frantically tried to change their reservations, others took the delays in their stride.
Jana Glaeser had arrived in Frankfurt from Miami and her flight to Berlin was canceled. “Now we’re getting a train ticket instead. Hopefully everything works out,” she said.
In western North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, local transport, public utilities and childcare centers were hit. There were long tailbacks on motorways, and in southern Baden-Wuerttemberg buses and local trains stayed in depots.
“We want to send a clear signal to employers with these massive strikes,” said Frank Bsirske, head of Verdi, Germany’s biggest labor union for service sector employees.
He said the union would escalate the dispute if employers did not present an offer next week. The third round of talks starts on April 15.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is in robust shape, with record tax revenues and a budget surplus. Rising employment, inflation-busting pay rises and low borrowing costs are fueling a consumer-led upswing.
“If not now, when can we have significant increases for all workers, also in the public sector?” said Bsirske.
In the industrial sector, 3.9 million workers agreed on a pay and flexible working hours deal in February that amounted to a roughly 4 percent rise per year for 2018 and 2019. Inflation edged up to 1.5 percent in March.
The European Central Bank is keeping a close eye on the German wage negotiations for any sign that wage growth is picking up, potentially lifting inflation and allowing the ECB to start winding down its massive stimulus program.
Neighboring France has also faced industrial action in the last few weeks in protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s planned reforms.


Iraq, Iran discuss boosting bilateral trade

Updated 48 min 15 sec ago
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Iraq, Iran discuss boosting bilateral trade

  • Both countries could raise annual bilateral trade to $20 billion from the current level of $12 billion
  • Iraqi President Barham Salih arrived Saturday and met with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani

DUBAI: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday Iran and Iraq could raise annual bilateral trade to $20 billion from the current level of $12 billion, in remarks carried live by state television.
“Today, the economic relations between the two countries reach about $12 billion (per year) and, through bilateral efforts, we can raise this figure to $20 billion,” Rouhani told visiting Iraqi President Barham Salih.

Salih's Iran visit comes less than two weeks after the United States restored oil sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal.
State TV says Barham Salih arrived Saturday and met with his Iranian counterpart, President Hassan Rouhani.
Iran, which has had major influence over Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, is hoping to maintain exports to its neighbor despite the renewed sanctions. Iraq is Iran’s second-largest market after China, buying everything from food and machinery to electricity and natural gas.
Trade between the two countries was some $7 billion in 2017, and they have vowed to boost it to $8.5 billion this year.

(With AP)