Massive strike over pay to paralyze transport in inflation-stricken Germany

BERLIN/FRANKFURT, March 27 (Reuters) – A major strike in Germany is set to begin early on Monday, paralyzing mass transit and airports in the biggest walkouts in decades.

In the hours running up to the strike, union bosses warned thousands of workers and management were “a matter of survival” after a significant pay rise and the resulting action was “absolutely excessive”.

The strikes, which began mainly after midnight and are scheduled to affect services throughout Monday, are the latest industrial action in months that have hit major European economies as high food and energy prices hit living standards.

Germany, which relied heavily on Russia for gas before the war in Ukraine, has been hit hard by high inflation as it scrambles for new energy sources, with inflation rates higher than the euro-area average in recent months.

German consumer prices rose more than expected in February – 9.3% from a year earlier – signaling no let-up in stubborn spending pressures as the European Central Bank tries to contain a series of interest-rate hikes.

It’s been a painful adjustment for millions of workers across the country as the cost of everything from butter to rent has risen at a steady rate for years.

“It is a matter of survival for many thousands of employees to get a substantial wage increase,” Frank Wernecke, head of the Verdi labor union, told Bild am Sonntag.

France has faced a series of strikes and protests since January amid growing anger over the government’s move to raise the state pension age by two years to 64.

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But officials in Germany have made it clear that their protest is only about wages.

The Verdi union is negotiating on behalf of around 2.5 million employees in the public sector, including public transport and airports. The railway and transport union EVG is negotiating for around 230,000 employees at railway operator Deutsche Bahn ( DBN.UL ) and bus companies.

Verdi is demanding a 10.5% pay rise, which would amount to at least 500 euros ($538) a month, while EVG is asking for 12%, or at least 650 euros a month.

Deutsche Bahn said Sunday’s strike was “completely excessive, unfounded and unnecessary”.

Employers are also warning that higher wages for transport workers will make up the difference in fees and taxes.

($1 = 0.9295 euros)

Reporting by Tom Sims and Klaus Lauer; Editing by David Holmes

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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