Striking workers return to work at Frankfurt airport

FRANKFURT — Strikers at Frankfurt airport, Europe’s third busiest, are to return to work on Wednesday evening, following five days of walkouts, after agreeing to hold new talks with management, their union said.

By (AFP)

Published: Wed 22 Feb 2012, 8:56 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:57 AM

Airport operator Fraport welcomed the announcement, saying both sides would meet on Thursday morning for a new round of talks “without any preconditions.”

The GdF said it had decided to accept Fraport’s written offer for fresh talks to end a pay dispute involving around 200 tarmac workers that is grounding hundreds of flights daily.

“We welcome the fact that a solution is now being sought back at the negotiating table. That’s in the interests of passengers, airlines and our employees,” said Fraport chief Stefan Schulte.

“We examined the letter and informed Fraport of our willingness to resume talks,” union chief Michael Schaefer told AFP.

“We will suspend the strikes while the talks are in process,” starting from the beginning of the night shift at 9:00 pm (2000 GMT), Schaefer added.

Industrial action “will remain suspended until the end of the talks, which is to say until a deal is reached or until one side or the other breaks off the talks. But we don’t want that and don’t expect it,” he added.

Some 200 apron control staff — who direct aircraft in and out of their parking positions both from the control tower and on the tarmac — have been striking since last Thursday over demands for higher pay, increased bonuses and reduced working hours.

Fraport said 170 flights were cancelled Wednesday, fewer than in previous days, as contingency plans saw other employees taking over the strikers’ duties.

On Tuesday, more than 80 percent of take-offs and landings were able to go ahead and disruption kept to a minumum, despite the strikes, according to Fraport.

German airline Lufthansa, which has its main base in Frankfurt, has also mobilised its employees to help out and most transatlantic and long haul flights have remained unaffected.

Financial Times Deutschland quoted Lufthansa board member Stefan Lauer as estimating that the airline has lost 50-100 million euros ($66-132 million) in revenues due to the walkouts so far.

Fraport insists it has made concessions “on many points in the union’s extremely high demands.”

But in other areas, the demands were “so extremely high... that they would threaten the entire wage structure system as a whole,” it said.

Frankfurt airport is Europe’s third busiest after London-Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

GdF repeatedly threatened strike action last year in a long-running wage dispute for regular air traffic controllers.

A strike was averted when the union and Germany’s air safety authority DFS reached a deal in court in October.

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