Negotiators for Germany’s municipalities and ver.di union have signaled readiness to compromise after a strike disrupted airports, kindergartens and buses. Hundreds of flights were canceled. Talks resume next week.
A strike by ground staff forced flight cancellations at seven German airports on Thursday, especially Frankfurt and Munich. By mid-afternoon, flights began returning to normal.
The German carrier Lufthansa said it was forced to cancel 550 flights at its key hub Frankfurt.
Ver.di said its so-called "warning strike" - involving more than 100,000 public service workers nationwide - left idle numerous public services, including townhalls, buses and trams. Commuters resorted to private vehicles instead, clogging roads.
Ahead of a third round of talks due early next week, ver.di chief Frank Bsirske said his union wanted a "good settlement" for its members.
The negotiator for Germany's combined local authorities, Thomas Böhle, said the municipalities believed that a "suitable" wage rise would emerge. He did not give specifics.
The union wants a 100 euro ($137) raise in monthly pay that would particularly benefit the lower paid among 2.1 million public service employees.
On top of that, ver.di wants an additional 3.5 percent pay raise for each member employed by local authorities and federal institutions.
Employer negotiator Böhle said ver.di's pay package demand was "excessive." He described as "unnecessary" the union's use of the warning strike provision – a move allowed but limited in scale under German industrial relations law.
Passengers urged to still check
By late-afternoon, Lufthansa was still urging passengers to check the status of departing flights before traveling to airports, saying negative effects of the strike could be expected "until the end of the day."
As a strike precaution, Lufthansa had cut a third of its flights worldwide and advised passengers via SMS messaging.
Air Berlin, Germany's second biggest airline, listed only a small number of cancellations of flights from the major airports on its website.
A spokesman for Munich airport, the country's second-biggest, said 130 flights had been cancelled so far, mostly by Lufthansa.
While ver.di is planning further action on Friday, "the biggest walkouts are over and airports will not be affected" tomorrow, a union spokeswoman said.
"We do not expect any after-effects from the strikes in the coming days," Lufthansa added.
Ver.di focused its strike action Thursday on eight of Germany's 16 regional states, or Länder, especially Germany's most populous, North Rhine-Westphalia.
Affected were trash collections, kindergartens, hospitals, communal buses and trams, city council bureaus and communal swimming complexes.
Thursday's strike followed a series of stoppages involving several public service sectors, such as local transport workers, in recent weeks.
ipj/dr (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
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