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  • BBC

Germany 'mega strike': Public transport network halted over pay

Germany's transport network is at a near standstill as the country experiences one of its largest strikes in decades.

Staff at airports, ports, railways, buses and subways walked out shortly after midnight for a 24-hour stoppage.

Two of the Germany's largest unions are demanding higher wages to help with the rising cost of living.

The country's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said she was optimistic an agreement would be reached this week.

"Many public service workers are suffering the high energy prices and high inflation," she told Reuters on Monday. "That's why it's our job to find a good agreement."

There have recently been smaller walkouts by other public servants.

Monday's "mega strike", as it has been dubbed in local media, has affected commuter and regional trains operated by Deutsche Bahn, Germany's national rail operator.

Local transport services, including trams and buses, are also not operating in seven states.

"Petrol and food prices have risen," one protester in Berlin told the AFP news agency. "I'm feeling it in my wallet."

Thousands of flights have been cancelled, including at two of the country's biggest airports - Munich and Frankfurt.

Multiple flights from Munich Airport were also disrupted on Sunday by strike action.

"I am a bit shocked actually," said one man, who was trying to fly to the Spanish city of Málaga. "I didn't hear of it [the strike], so I have to find out what to do right now."

Germany's airport association said about 380,000 air travellers would be affected by the strike but added it was "beyond any imaginable and justifiable measure".

Jenny Hill, the BBC's Berlin correspondent, said it was very rare for a dispute over pay to escalate so dramatically in Germany, but this time two of the country's largest unions have joined forces.

Verdi represents about 2.5 million employees across the public sector, including in public transport and at airports. It wants to secure a 10.5% pay rise for staff.

EVG represents about 230,000 employees at Deutsche Bahn and other bus companies. It wants a 12% rise in pay.

Both unions hope the strike will increase pressure on employers ahead of another round of pay negotiations this week.

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, the chief of Verdi, Frank Werneke, described the pay rise as "a matter of survival for many thousands of employees."

"The people are not only underpaid, they are hopelessly overworked," he said.

EVG chairman, Martin Burkert, told the regional Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that employers had not yet made a viable offer to them and warned there could be further strikes, including over the Easter holiday break.

On Monday he added to Reuters: "We expect an offer over which we can negotiate. To this day we don't have one."

Ms Faeser said that the government had "presented a good offer".

"I now expect the unions to move away from their high demands and meet us somewhere along the way," she added.


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