germany strike trams
Trams are parked during a nationwide strike over a wage dispute held by public transport workers on February 2, 2024 in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. Image Credit: AFP

Berlin: Public transport workers across Germany walked off the job on Friday in the latest industrial action to buffet Europe’s top economy.

The Verdi services trade union called on more than 90,000 workers at over 130 local companies operating buses, trams and underground services to join the walkout in an escalating dispute over pay and working conditions.

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The strike impacted 81 cities and 42 rural districts.

In most areas it was scheduled to stop public transport for the whole day, with the exception of Berlin where service resumed mid-morning, and Bavaria where Verdi did not strike while pay negotiations continued.

Long-distance and regional trains operated by Deutsche Bahn, where drivers went on strike last week, were unaffected.

Verdi’s deputy chair Christine Behle said the union was seeking a 35-hour work week with no losses in wages, in a bid to make jobs more attractive to workers.

Germany bus depot strike
Buses are parked at a depot during a nationwide strike called by the German trade union Verdi over a wage dispute, in Bonn, Germany, February 2, 2024. Image Credit: Reuters

Many operators are reporting up to 20 to 30 percent unfilled posts, with the staff shortages contributing to a vicious circle of overworked employees who are then falling ill, exacerbating the situation.

Climate activists had earlier in the week given their support to Verdi despite the impact on public transportation, saying it was time for the sector’s workers to receive better compensation.

The strike came one day after security staff at 11 German airports walked off the job, leading to the cancellation of 1,100 flights amid a spate of industrial action and protests to hit commuters in the last weeks.

Meanwhile farmers have repeatedly used tractors to block access to roads and key ports in Germany, intensifying demonstrations against government plans to cut agriculture subsidies.

The next strike appeared to be on the horizon, at German airline Lufthansa.

Verdi chief negotiator in wage talks for ground staff, Marvin Reschinsky, said the negotiations with the flag carrier had hit an impasse.

“A strike is highly likely,” Reschinsky said. “The only question is whether it will be before or after February 12 when the third round of negotiations are set to take place.”