Germany faces possible air traffic chaos on Thursday after a union called for air traffic controllers to stage a six-hour strike over pay and work conditions.
Up to 2,500 flights could be cancelled if the strike, planned to start at 6 a.m., goes ahead, the union said. But there is a chance it could be averted because the air traffic control authority has applied for a court injunction to stop it. There is also a possibility that the authority might file for arbitration, in which case any action could be delayed for weeks.
The German Travel Assocation warned that a strike would cause massive disruption at the height of the holiday season.
"The wage dispute should be solved at the negotiating table and shouldn't hit air travelers who need to make business trips or start their well-deserved vacations," Jürgen Büchy, the president of the association, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Germany's air traffic controllers, who have a starting pay of around €90,000 ($128,000) want a wage increase of 6.5 percent for 12 months, while the German air traffic control authority, DFS, has offered a rise of 3.2 percent plus a one-time payment this year and an increase by at least another 2 percent next year.
Demands for Better Working Conditions
The union said the latest offer represented a pay cut in real terms. Air traffic controllers are also fighting for better working conditions. In recent years, they claim, DFS has failed to recruit enough new workers, creating additional burdens for the country's approximately 2,000 air traffic controllers, who must often put in overtime hours. Although the number of flights in Germany has increased dramatically in recent years, the number of air traffic controllers hasn't reflected that growth, with the union claiming that at least 350 new hires are needed. Given the stressful nature of the job, union officials say they fear flight safety could be at risk.
For its part, DFS has denied the allegations, saying it is currently training the greatest number of air traffic controllers possible.