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German air traffic controllers appeal court ruling banning strike action

3,400 flight controllers were due to stop work for six hours tomorrow – but a German court has banned the strike.

An aeroplane takes off behind a red traffic light at the international airport in Dusseldorf yesterday. An air traffic controllers' strike planned for tomorrow could wreak havoc on the travel plans of many.
An aeroplane takes off behind a red traffic light at the international airport in Dusseldorf yesterday. An air traffic controllers' strike planned for tomorrow could wreak havoc on the travel plans of many.
Image: Frank Augstein/AP

THE COMPANY THAT operates Germany’s nationwide air traffic control service has won a court injunction to stop over 3,000 flight controllers from staging a six-hour strike tomorrow morning – but the controllers have already lodged an appeal.

The flight controllers were due to walk off duty between 5am and 11am Irish time tomorrow – potentially leading to up to 3,000 flight cancellations and disruptions across Europe.

This afternoon, however, Bild reported that the Labour Court in Frankfurt had granted an injunction to the national airspace operator meaning the strike – which would have had implications for flights across Europe, and not just in Germany – cannot now go ahead.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung later added, though, that the pilots had already lodged an appeal – and that trade union officials were prepared for a “long night” as they sought a final ruling on the matter.

The proposed strike action follows a ballot of air traffic controllers, which the Financial Times says was held earlier this week, where staff voted to pursue industrial action over a dispute about pay and conditions.

The strike would affect not only flights to and from Germany, but all flights which would travel through German airspace – meaning that the impact would be felt around the world and not just in the Federal Republic.

Der Spiegel reported that the traffic controllers – who enjoy a basic wage of €90,000 – are seeking a pay raise of 6.5 per cent, but the air traffic control agency Deutsche Flugsicherung was only willing to offer a 3.2 per cent increase along with a single one-time bonus payment.

The traffic controllers’ union said this pay cut was tantamount to a pay cut in real terms, given the current rate of inflation.

Critics of the strike action believe the traffic controllers should accept the offers being made to them, given that controllers enjoy relatively cushy working conditions – including a 25-hour working week and 50 days’ leave every year.

Germany’s biggest airline Lufthansa has appealed to both sides in the dispute not to make passengers pay the price for the conflict.

Reuters had reported that domestic airlines would be have been able to delay short-haul flights until after the strike, but airlines operating longer flights would not have enjoyed the same flexibility and would have had to cancel dozens of scheduled services.

Pilots from Lufthansa and from Air Berlin were forced to call off a planned strike last year when their employers won a court injunction blocking their strike.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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