Airports and bus and train stations across Germany were at a standstill on Monday due to strikes called by the Verdi trade union and railway and transport union EVG. The 24-hour "warning" strikes were the latest in months of industrial action which has hit major European economies as higher food and energy prices dent living standards.
The strikes kicked off three days of wage talks which could lead to further strikes if they fail to yield a compromise. Employers have offered 5% more wages over a period of 27 months and a one-off payment of 2,500 euros - proposals unions, which are calling for double-digit hikes, call unacceptable amid soaring inflation which reached 9.3% in February.
Germany has been particularly hard hit by higher prices as it scrambled for new energy sources, with inflation rates exceeding the euro-area average in recent months.
The Airports Association ADV estimated that 380,000 air passengers were affected by flight suspensions including at two of Germany's largest airports in Munich and Frankfurt. In Frankfurt alone, almost 1,200 flights for 160,000 passengers were cancelled and stranded travellers slept on benches.
Rail services were also cancelled by railway operator Deutsche Bahn (DBN.UL). Striking workers wearing yellow or red high-visibility jackets blew horns, sirens and whistles, held up banners and waved flags during protests.
Verdi is negotiating on behalf of around 2.5 million employees in the public sector, including in public transport and at airports, while EVG negotiates for around 230,000 employees at Deutsche Bahn and bus companies.