Airport Security Screeners in Germany Go on Strike, Grounding Flights

Security screeners began a one-day walkout on Thursday at 11 of Germany’s busiest airports, bringing departures to a virtual standstill, scuttling travel plans for an expected 200,000 people and adding to the chaos caused by public sector strikes.

Airports serving Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart canceled all departures in anticipation of the work stoppage, while others — including Frankfurt’s airport, the biggest in Germany — were trying to keep some flights in the air but warned of significant delays and cancellations.

Wolfgang Pieper, a lead negotiator for Verdi, the public sector union behind the strike, said that the work of airport security staff “must remain financially attractive so that the urgently needed skilled workers can be recruited and retained.” Screeners are demanding an hourly raise of 2.80 euros, or about $3, a 14 percent increase for a starting salary.

The federal association of aviation security businesses, the B.D.L.S., which represents employers, called the demands “utopian.” It has offered a 4 percent increase this year, followed by a 3 percent rise next year.

Arrivals from abroad were not affected, but the one-day strike nonetheless created headaches for huge numbers of air travelers, who were the latest to be affected by a flurry of protests that have hit Germany in past weeks.

With inflation easing but still a concern and the economy stagnant, the labor unrest reflects a broader sense of unhappiness in the country, where discontent with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition government is at a high.

Some of the public signs of anger, like demonstrations by farmers who have used their tractors to block roads across the country to protest cuts to subsidies, are clearly directed at Mr. Scholz’s government.

But other, much larger, pro-democracy demonstrations are aimed at the ascendant far-right, which is poised to pick up political power during state elections this year.

The one-day strike is just one of many recent labor actions that have affected life in Germany, where unionized workers have been clamoring to secure higher wages. The minimum wage was raised to €12.41 per hour last month, but most unionized jobs pay significantly more.

There was some relief for travelers this week as train drivers agreed to return to work on Monday, ending a six-day strike a day early. The striking engineers managed to bring rail travel to a halt, with only one in five intercity trains in operation.

On Tuesday, 5,000 doctors working at university hospitals across the country went on strike, demanding better wages and working conditions.

When airport workers are back at their posts on Friday morning, travelers and commuters will have to face a new obstacle: Public transport workers will walk off the job for a few hours in protest over their wages, stopping trams, subways, and buses during the morning commute, until 10 a.m.

Verdi, the union leading the airport screeners’ strike, is also pushing for higher wages for ground crew and service personnel working for Lufthansa and at a chain of regional airports. Those workers were not on strike on Thursday.

For people who had been planning to travel by air on Thursday, Lufthansa warned of reduced service and offered train tickets to travelers who had booked domestic flights to and from Frankfurt.

The airports serving Munich — Germany’s second-busiest airport — and Nuremberg were not affected, because security screeners there have different contracts.

“In Germany, we see strike announcements almost daily to the detriment of mobility and the economy,” said Ralph Beisel, the director of the airport association ADV. “It has to stop,” he added.

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