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Germany at standstill as transport workers go on biggest strike in decades

Tens of thousands of transport workers have brought Germany to a standstill in what is being described as the country’s most widespread strike action in over three decades. 

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at major airports across the country, including the busiest hubs in Frankfurt and Munich on Monday.

National rail operator Deutsche Bahn cancelled all long-distance trains and most of the regional services.

Bus, tram and metro drivers in seven federal states – including Bavaria and the country’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia – also joined the strike action.

Trade unions Verdi and EVG had jointly called for a 24-hour strike to increase pressure on the government and public transport companies in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

EVG chairman Martin Burkert told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper’s Monday edition that employers had not yet made a viable offer and warned that further warning strikes were possible, including over the upcoming Easter holiday period.

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‘A matter of survival’

The EVG, which represents more than 200,000 employees, is demanding a 12 percent and no less than €650 ($700) wage increase per month.

The Verdi trade union already began a series of walkouts earlier this month in various sectors after the second round of collective bargaining negotiations with the government and local authorities ended without agreement.

Frank Werneke, head of the Verdi labour union, who spoke of the largest strike in decades, said the labour action was a matter of survival for millions of workers amid high inflation, according to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The union, which represents around 2.5 million public employees, is demanding a 10.5 percent and no less than  $540 (€500) pay rise amid a soaring fall in purchasing value of money and the cost-of-living crisis. 

Deutsche Bahn on Sunday said the strike was “completely excessive, groundless and unnecessary,” and employers are warning that higher wages for transport workers would result in higher fares and taxes to make up the difference.

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