'Mega strike' brings Germany to standstill as Europe hit by walkouts
Germany has been brought to a standstill by a “mega strike”, as two powerful unions joined forces to cripple the country’s transport infrastructure.
German airports and train stations resembled ghost towns on Monday as workers downed their tools in a 24-hour strike.
In one of the largest strikes in years, flights, train services and buses were cancelled across the country.
Public sector union Verdi, which represents 2.5 million workers, teamed up with transport union EVG to call the mega strike.
The unions are demanding pay rises of up to 10.5 per cent for their workers as they seek to balance out the raging inflation that was kicked off by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The aim is "to make it unmistakably clear to employers that workers are behind our demands", said Verdi boss Frank Werneke ahead of negotiations with the government this week.
State rail company Deutsche Bahn criticised the action, describing it as "excessive and overblown".
Frankfurt Airport, Germany's largest air hub, confirmed that over a thousand flights had been cancelled.
There had been fears that the strike would also cripple the country’s autobahn system due to the fact that road workers had joined in.
But German authorities confirmed on Monday that the roads were still open.
Traffic jams were also not as severe as expected at rush hour as many workers appear to have taken the chance to work from home.
Local councils have warned that the unions' demands will bite into the public purse at a time when money is tight.
Municipalities "will be forced to raise taxes for rubbish collection, entrance fees for swimming pools or property tax", said Gerd Landsberg, head of the association of local government, to Bild newspaper.
Strikes have hit the transport sector in countries on the continent as workers seek pay deals that cancel out the costs of inflation.
In Spain, air traffic controllers have walked out on several days throughout March, while Italy is also preparing for major strikes.
Rail sector workers in France have participated in the massive unrest over Paris' planned pension reform.