May 25, 2024

Wide-ranging strikes hitting Germany’s state-owned rail network and flag carrier Lufthansa are having a significant impact on the country’s ailing economy, the head of the highly regarded ifo economic institute said on Thursday.

Speaking on national public television broadcaster ZDF, ifo President Clemens Fuest described the strikes as “an additional burden that [Germany] could well do without.”

German train drivers launched a 35-hour pay strike on Thursday, and Lufthansa ground staff began a two-day strike at the same time.

“The economy is shrinking, and when something like this comes along in addition, parts are lacking in production processes, because they were not delivered, or people can’t attend meetings, or perhaps can’t go to work,” Fuest said.

The German rail network and air transport were systemically important. “For that reason we must consider whether all of this is still proportionate,” Fuest said.

The ifo head proposed stricter rules for strikes, such as longer notice periods.

The wage conflicts should also be seen against the backdrop of a weak economy, he said. “The cake is becoming smaller. What we are able to share is becoming smaller, and then conflict increases,” he said. “It’s much easier to make concessions in a growing economy.”

But Fuest added: “It has to be said that the unions in Germany are on the whole extremely sensible.” He contrasted this with France where there had been up to five times as many strike days as in Germany over the past decade.

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