Hundreds of flights cancelled in Germany as airports hit by public sector strikes (VIDEO)

Members of German public sector workers union Verdi stage a strike at the airport in demand for higher wages in Frankfurt, Germany April 10, 2018. Sign reads 'Today a warning strike.' — Reuters pic
Members of German public sector workers union Verdi stage a strike at the airport in demand for higher wages in Frankfurt, Germany April 10, 2018. Sign reads 'Today a warning strike.' — Reuters pic

BERLIN, April 10 — Thousands of passengers at four German airports, including the biggest hub Frankfurt, were stranded today as ground staff and other public sector workers staged walkouts across the country to increase the pressure in a pay dispute.

Lufthansa said yesterday it was cancelling more than 800 of its planned 1,600 flights today and Frankfurt airport operator Fraport has warned of disruption.

As well as Frankfurt, airports in Munich, Cologne and Bremen were hit. The industrial action also affected nurseries, rubbish collection services and swimming pools in several German states.

“We want to send a clear signal to employers with these massive strikes,” Frank Bsirske, head of Verdi, Germany's biggest labour union for service sector employees, said. “We expect an offer to be made for the third round of talks that is worthy of discussion so we can reach a good solution.”

He said the union would escalate the dispute if employers did not present an offer next week. The third round of talks start on April 15.

Verdi has called for a 6 per cent 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 an increase would force them to outsource jobs.

The strikes, which started at 5am (0300 GMT) were due to run until 6pm (1600 GMT) today.

Europe's biggest economy is in robust shape, with record tax revenues and a budget surplus. Rising employment, inflation-busting pay hikes and low borrowing costs are fuelling a consumer-led upswing.

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 per cent rise per year for 2018 and 2019. Inflation edged up to 1.5 per cent 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 programme.

Neighbouring France has also faced industrial action in the last few weeks in protests against President Emmanuel Macron's planned reforms. — Reuters