Germany to draft foreign workers to ease airport chaos this summer

Germany to draft foreign workers to ease airport chaos this summer

Worker shortages are combining with a growing appetite for overseas travel to cause chaos at airports in Germany and across Europe - a situation that is only expected to worsen as the summer holidays get into full swing. To help alleviate the situation, the federal government is planning to make it easier for airports to recruit workers from overseas. 

Workers to be drafted from Turkey to help at German airports

Due to a lack of workers in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Germany’s airports have been overwhelmed by rising passenger numbers in recent weeks, with huge queues and long waiting times becoming an all-too-common occurrence. 

Concerned that the peak of the travel season this summer is still to come, the federal government is stepping in to make the temporary recruitment of foreign workers quicker and easier. “We will make it possible for companies to use auxiliary workers from abroad, especially from Turkey,” said Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, presenting the plans in Berlin on Wednesday.

Together with Transport Minister Volker Wissing and Labour Minister Hubertus Heil, Faeser announced that skilled workers will be temporarily drafted in from abroad to help out with baggage handling, security and check-in at German airports. According to the ministers, there are currently several thousand workers who are not needed by airports in Turkey. The government will relax the conditions for visas and residence permits, to enable these workers to be deployed to Germany as soon as possible. 

Heil emphasised that no compromises were being made on safety or propriety: the new workers will have to go through the same standard security checks, will be hired by companies (rather than put on temporary work contracts) and paid wages in line with collective agreements, and will be housed in good conditions. 

Computer error and threat of strike in Hamburg add to airport woes

The move is intended to defuse the chaotic situation at airports in Germany, where a lack of staff is causing queues, delays and flight cancellations. Lufthansa alone has already cancelled 3.000 connections from its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich. 

Adding to the chaos this week is a computer issue in central Germany that grounded flights for several hours on Wednesday morning, as well as the threat of a strike in Hamburg, where ver.di employees have been instructed to walk out for 24 hours on Friday as part of a pay dispute. 

The newly drafted workers won’t be around to help anytime soon: they’re unlikely to be deployed until August at the earliest and therefore - in the eyes of some in the industry - far too late for the holiday season at most airports. Thomas Richer, head of the Employers’ Association of Ground Handling Service Providers in Aviation, told Reuters, “It doesn’t solve the problem, but it certainly helps.” 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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