BER: What is behind the strike – economy

Enrico Rümker is a little hard to understand because of the whistles. He’s just moving through Terminal 1 at BER, he calls into the phone, “with 2,000 people!” Whether there really are that many is difficult to verify, especially since the Verdi union representative naturally has an interest in making the warning strike at Berlin’s capital airport look as big as possible. What is clear, however, is that the labor dispute is having a major impact: Nothing works on Wednesday at BER, the airport management is canceling all 300 flights, 35,000 passengers are said to be affected. Rümker knows about the inconvenience, but he thinks above all of the employees. “They just need more money now.”

The background to the widespread warning strike – from the early shift until late Wednesday evening – is a little complex. Employees from three different areas took part because, from the point of view of the Verdi officials, nothing is moving in their collective bargaining rounds. Firstly, there are the negotiations with the airport company, for example about the salaries of the airport firefighters, administrative staff and IT staff. In a second round, Verdi is fighting for the wages of the ground staff, for example the employees at the check-in counter, the luggage loaders and the bus drivers on the tarmac. A third round affects the employees of aviation security, they check the luggage of the passengers.

Some employees do not earn much

Verdi is asking for significantly higher wages for ground services and employees at the airport company, there should be 500 euros more per month. Rümker himself conducts the negotiations with the ground services, and he says that the employees are suffering particularly from the high inflation because they earn little, on average around 2,500 euros gross.

When asked by SZ, the employers – including the companies WISAG, Swissport and Airline Assistance Switzerland – said the warning strike was “incomprehensible” to them, and that the negotiations were constructive. They have offered to pay employees more money in three stages, averaging about 15 percent. But there is a dispute about the term of the collective agreement: the employers want to create it for three years, while Verdi only has one year in mind. After that, the unionists want to negotiate higher salaries again in order to be able to react if inflation stays high for a longer period of time.

Negotiations are also stagnating at the airport company, the management recently offered 5 percent more money over the next two years. When asked by SZ, a spokeswoman said that they did not want to comment further on the current round. The third round in aviation security is about higher premiums for overtime and weekend work, the negotiations have already been postponed six times. The Federal Association of Aviation Security Companies informsthe warning strike was “completely exaggerated”, the employees would already get wage increases of up to 28 percent this year.

The warning strikes at BER are not the first this year, and they won’t be the last either. In numerous wage rounds, the unions are demanding lavish increases with which they want to compensate for the inflation driven up by the energy crisis. On the other hand, there are employers who are also concerned about the crisis and who want to act cautiously – and who also warn that sharp wage increases could drive inflation further. However, it is disputed whether such a wage-price spiral could occur. Tough negotiations are emerging in the postal service and public sector, among others, and the pattern is likely to repeat itself when wage rounds start in retail and some industrial sectors in the coming months.

Back to Enrico Rümker, whose comrades-in-arms are expanding their whistle concert in the terminal, at least that’s what it sounds like. “I hope something finally moves!” he roars. The next negotiations for the ground services at BER are scheduled for next Monday.

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