Airports, bus and train stations across Germany were paralyzed Monday morning during one of the biggest strikes in decades, throwing millions of people into a tailspin at the start of the working week.
The strike comes at a time when Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is suffering from inflation.
The planned 24-hour strike, called by trade union Verdi and transport union EVG, is the latest in months of strikes that have battered Europe’s major economies as rising food and energy prices hit living standards.
Two of Germany’s largest airports, Munich and Frankfurt, suspended flights, while rail operator Deutsche Bahn canceled long-distance flights. Strikers wearing red vests honked horns and whistles at an empty train station in Munich.
Employees are pressing for higher wages to mitigate the effects of inflation, which reached 9.3% in February. Germany, which was heavily dependent on Russian gas before the war in Ukraine, has been hit hard by rising prices in particular as it seeks new energy sources, as its inflation rates have exceeded the average inflation in the eurozone in recent months.
Verdi is negotiating on behalf of 2.5 million employees and workers in the public sector, including those working in public transport and airports. The EVG railway and transport workers’ union is negotiating for the 230,000 employees and workers of Deutsche Bahn’s rail and bus companies.
Each party stuck to its position in the hours leading up to the strike, and union bosses said the massive wage increase was a matter of “life or death” for thousands of workers.
A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn said Monday, “Millions of commuters who depend on buses and trains are suffering from this exaggerated strike.”
Verdi’s union is calling for a 10.5% increase in wages, which would mean a salary increase of at least 500 euros ($538) per month, and EVG is asking for a 12% increase, or about 650 euros ($702) per month at least.
The stranded passengers mixed feelings of sympathy for the workers with dissatisfaction with the strike.
“Yes, it’s justified, but I’ve never been on strike in my life and I’ve been working for more than 40 years. Meanwhile, in France, they strike all the time because of something,” said Lars Bohm, a person named Lars Bohm.