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Aviation

Strike-free weekend promised at German airports

Germany's Verdi trade union has said that no further security personnel strikes will disrupt weekend traffic at German airports. Hundreds of flights were cancelled on Friday in Hamburg and at Cologne/Bonn.

Trade union officials announced late on Friday that its staff would stage no weekend strikes at the northern German airport in Hamburg or the Cologne/Bonn hub in the west. Verdi said, however, that fresh strikes were possible early next week.

Cologne/Bonn airport said that more than half of its 200 scheduled Friday flights were cancelled as security personnel walked off the job. Hamburg airport, meanwhile, said that nearly 150 flights stayed grounded.

Verdi said on Friday that its public efforts had "made much progress in the public sphere," and that the staff actions would therefore cease to grant employers time to consider their options.

Unions and employers are locked in a dispute over wages, with comparatively little progress made so far. Verdi is seeking an hourly wage of 14.50 euros ($19.40) for airport security staff at Hamburg - an increase of around 30 percent - the airports have offered 12.75 euros. Unions are holding out for slightly higher wages for airport staff in North Rhine-Westphalia - with the talks tied to other wage levels in poorly-paid security roles. Each side accuses the other of having no genuine interest in reaching a deal.

Air industry calls action 'wholly disproportionate'

Representatives of the German air travel industry have criticized the strike actions, saying trade unions have chosen airports as a site of maximum disruption.

Germany's federal aviation industry authority, the BDL, said on Friday that only around 1,600 of the roughly 42,000 security staff in Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia worked at airports.

"And nevertheless these airports and their passengers are turned into the battleground for the wage dispute. That is irresponsible," BDL President Klaus-Peter Siegloch said.

German airlines like Air Berlin and Lufthansa were similarly critical.

"It is first and foremost our customers, who are bearing the brunt of these strikes. That is simply unacceptable," Lufthansa boss Christoph Franz said.

Verdi's chief negotiator Andrea Becker told German radio station Deutschlandfunk that it was no secret that the union had identified airports as an area with "the potential for pressure" when planning the strikes.

The wage dispute prompted similar strikes at airports including Düsseldorf, Cologne/Bonn ("Köln/Bonn" in German) and Hamburg in January this year.

msh/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)