Strikes hit air traffic in W. Germany

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BERLIN, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Collective bargaining strikes of public sector employees brought passenger air traffic at major airports in western Germany to a virtual standstill on Monday.

Of the 330 arrivals and departures at Dusseldorf Airport, the largest airport of the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state, only 89 were operational. At NRW's second-largest Cologne airport, only one line to and from Vienna was functional.

Public transport in the most populous German state is also affected by the one-day strike, so are daycare centers, municipal hospitals and garbage collection services.

Trade union Verdi is demanding 10.5 percent more pay for public sector employees, and at least an increase of 500 euros (530 U.S. dollars) a month.

Verdi NRW department head Andrea Becker said in a statement on Friday that they had not received an acceptable offer in the public service negotiations so far. But employers at Germany's federal and municipal governments repeatedly stressed that the strike calls were "incomprehensible."

The employers said the current offer included a five percent wage increase in two steps as well as a tax-free one-time payment of 2,500 euros. "This is a significant improvement in income for employees," said Wolf-Ruediger Michel, vice-president of the Association of Municipal Employers' Associations, calling the offer "the limit of what is possible."

With inflation remaining high at 8.7 percent in January in Europe's largest economy, experts have already warned of a wage-price spiral. "We have to be careful about that," European Central Bank (ECB) Vice President Luis de Guindos told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung earlier this month.

"If we get into a wage-price spiral, the ECB will have to raise interest rates even more than otherwise necessary. In such a dynamic, no one wins and everyone ends up worse off," Guindos added. (1 euro = 1.06 U.S. dollar) Enditem

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