Berlin After the big warning strike, the railways and Frankfurt Airport resumed operations as planned. The regional and S-Bahn traffic is running regularly, “only a few trips are canceled in the morning hours in long-distance traffic,” said a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn of the German Press Agency. The first freight trains have been running since Monday evening.
From the end of the night flight ban at 5 a.m., take-offs and landings were listed again on the Frankfurt Airport website. The “Flightradar 24” internet service showed numerous flight movements after 5 a.m.
The great chaos caused by the strike will at least not continue this Tuesday. However, Verdi and the civil service association threatened further industrial action if the resumed collective bargaining for the public sector did not lead to a result by Wednesday. The railway and transport union (EVG) was also ready to fight, but at least does not want to go on strike over the Easter holidays.
Verdi and EVG had called on employees from the transport sector to a 24-hour industrial dispute in several wage rounds currently being conducted, including in the public sector and at Deutsche Bahn. As a result, air traffic in Germany largely came to a standstill. The airports in Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg had already canceled all flights as a precaution.
All major airports, with the exception of the one in Berlin, were affected by the walkout. However, many domestic German connections were also lost in the capital. The airport association ADV assumed that around 380,000 business and private travelers would not be able to board their flights due to the strike.
“French Conditions in Germany”
General manager Ralph Beisel explained that the action had nothing to do with warning strikes. Rather, it is an attempt to “allow French conditions to move into Germany by means of a general strike”. At the largest airport in Frankfurt alone, 1170 take-offs and landings with a total of around 160,000 passengers would have been planned on Monday. There is currently a separate collective bargaining round for security staff at airports.
Rail transport was also massively affected. Deutsche Bahn canceled all long-distance trains, and there were total failures in many places in regional and S-Bahn services. According to the EVG, more than 30,000 employees took part in the walkout. In several federal states there were also disabilities in local transport.
“Millions of passengers who depend on buses and trains are suffering from this exaggerated, exaggerated strike,” criticized a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn. “Not everyone can work from home.” Companies that received or sent goods by rail also had disadvantages: “The winners of the day are the oil companies.”
Chaos was also expected on the autobahns after Verdi called on workers at Autobahn GmbH, who are responsible for safety in the tunnels, to go on strike. The Elbe Tunnel was prevented from being closed because the Hamburg Higher Labor Court had obliged Verdi to conclude an emergency service agreement that enabled normal operation of the tunnel.
Low economic impact
According to the ADAC, there was an increase in traffic in the morning hours, but there were only a few major traffic jams. “Anyone who can has stayed in the home office,” said a spokeswoman for the automobile club.
>> Read here: Can employees stay at home?
Although inland shipping and seaports were also affected, economists believe that the economic impact of the major strike will be limited. Commerzbank chief economist Jörg Krämer had estimated the damage in a rough calculation for the Handelsblatt at a maximum of 181 million euros. This corresponds to around 0.006 percent of Germany’s annual economic output.
Ifo economic expert Klaus Wohlrabe explained that the walkout had “thrown a bit of a spanner in the works”, but “didn’t cause any substantial losses”. In comparison to Belgium or France, for example, the strike intensity in Germany is rather low.
In the collective bargaining for the 2.5 million federal and local employees, employers and unions came together on Monday for the third round of talks, which is scheduled to last until Wednesday. Verdi and the civil servants’ association are demanding 10.5 percent more money, but at least 500 euros a month, with a term of the collective agreement of twelve months.
Arbitration would be the next step
The Association of Municipal Employers’ Associations (VKA) and Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) had offered employees five percent more money in two stages and an inflation compensation premium of 2,500 euros, but with a very long term of 27 months. At the start of the third round, VKA negotiator Karin Welge called on the unions to seriously negotiate the present offer.
Faeser explained that many employees, including those in the public sector, were suffering from high inflation. “That’s why it’s also our job to find a good deal together.”
If the negotiations are declared to have failed this week, either side can initiate arbitration proceedings to find a solution with the help of neutral mediators. Strikes are not permitted during arbitration.
If the conciliation procedure is not successful either, “then it will be very dark again in Germany,” warned the head of the civil service association, Ulrich Silberbach. “Then we will have to start a nationwide, unlimited industrial action.” This requires a ballot among the union members.
>> Read here: Commentary: The balance of power in the labor market has turned – in favor of the employees
Verdi boss Frank Werneke was skeptical about the prospects of arbitration: If there is sufficient will to find a solution, an agreement can also be reached within the regular negotiations, he said on Monday. “At the moment I can’t imagine what else should be said to each other in an arbitration.”
One of the main points of contention is the minimum amount of 500 euros demanded by the unions. Here VKA President Welge indicated willingness to approach the unions. In the collective bargaining at Deutsche Bahn, the EVG is demanding twelve percent more money, but at least 650 euros a month.
Just like the public employers, the railways had offered a two-stage tariff increase by a total of five percent and an inflation compensation premium of 2,500 euros for a period of 27 months. The union refuses to negotiate further on this basis and expects an improved offer by the next round of talks at the end of April.
The group asked the EVG to return to the negotiating table. The EVG is still ready to fight, but rules out further strikes before or during the Easter days. One does not want to strike the travelers, but the employers, said collective bargaining officer Kristian Loroch.
More: These graphics show how the culture of strikes is in Germany