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Euro airport strikes strand patrons of ITB travel show

March 13, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A wave of sudden strikes in Europe, paralysing airports in Germany, France and Finland, stranded thousands of air travellers and closed all Berlin airports on Friday, the peak day of ITB Berlin, Europe’s biggest travel show.

Almost all flights into and out of Berlin were cancelled after a big union urged more than 2000 airfield and terminal employees to walk out over a pay dispute. At Tegel airport in the north of the city, 455 flights were cancelled, while at Schönefeld airport 204 flights were cancelled.

Airport workers are pressing for higher pay following five rounds of unsuccessful negotiations. All Europe is potentially affected, as European Union rules designed to open up the market to more competition squeeze the wages of airport ground staff. Staff are already unhappy over conditions.

The strikes add to problems affecting Berlin’s new airport, which have delayed the facility’s opening until next year. Air Berlin had to to cancel 202 flights, or about a third of its schedule, on Friday, and Lufthansa axed all 68 flights to and from Berlin.

The German call to strike was made by union Verdi, which has demanded a pay raise of one euro per hour for ground staff with work contract terms of at least one year. Ground crew currently earn on average EUR 11 (about AUD 15.60) per hour.

In France, meanwhile, striking air traffic controllers halted about 1500 flights throughout last week. In Helsinki, Finnair canceled 104 flights on Friday and Italian employees are set to walk out on 20 March.

The four-hour work stoppage by ground crew at Finnish airports brought aviation traffic to a standstill at Helsinki Airport. Finnair cancelled over a hundred flights.

Last Wednesday, industrial action in France caused the cancellation of 43 flights to and from Spanish airports. Barcelona airport was the worst affected. The strike forced the cancellation of 18 flights between France and Spain and 25 other flights between Spanish airports and other European destinations.

Written by Peter Needham

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