Chaos at German airports

Can “guest-workers” solve the problem?

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chaos at German airports

Queues, lost luggage, cancellations: staff shortages are currently causing chaos at German airports. The federal government wants to take countermeasures and recruit foreign helpers. It won’t be easy.

The much-discussed “suitcase chaos” is almost the least of the problems for many travellers: Germany’s airports are currently coming up with so many surprises that when you start your vacation – if you choose the plane as your means of transport – above all one thing in the hand luggage should have: time.

The problem: During the meager pandemic years, companies in aviation have massively cut staff – or employees have looked for new jobs of their own free will. The result: According to the Institute of German Economics, more than 7,000 skilled workers are missing at German airports. In addition, the pandemic is far from over: Lufthansa also canceled 3,000 flights for the main holiday period because of corona sick leave, Easyjet has to go up for Berlin alone Giving up 1000 flights.

Gigantic challenges

Although, strictly speaking, it does not consider itself responsible for this, the federal government now wants to help remedy this deficiency. Short term. The Ministries of Transport, Labor and Interior have set up a working group for this purpose. But the challenges are gigantic.

One of the main sticking points is the necessary security check. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser does not want unskilled temporary workers from abroad to check hand luggage and frisk passengers, as her chief spokesman Maximilian Kall has now confirmed: “This does not happen at the security checks because of the training and safety standards required there into consideration, but for simpler activities such as baggage handling.”

However, since the shortage of personnel is particularly great in baggage and passenger screening, the question arises as to whether the problem can be solved at all with the planned recruitment of foreign workers.

Extensive security check

In addition, a seasonal worker in an asparagus field is different from an employee in a sensitive place like an airport. The latter must – no matter where he or she is deployed – have a spotlessly clean slate in terms of safety and undergo a complex background check. The Ministry of the Interior states that this review, which is carried out by the individual federal states, usually takes two weeks.

It is being discussed that around 2000 workers from non-EU countries, mainly from Turkey, will be recruited. Turkey is a good choice because the legal hurdles are not as high as in other third countries due to an existing association agreement with the EU.

Reasonable accommodation and collective agreements demanded

The matter is therefore far from being completely uncomplicated: Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil is pushing above all for workers to have proper, albeit temporary, collective agreements and be able to live in reasonable accommodation. Attempts were made to tackle the problem of precarious collective housing in the meat industry during the time of the grand coalition, but this phenomenon should not reappear elsewhere.

It is still unclear how quickly all these questions can be clarified and how quickly the new “guest-workers”, as they are called here and there, can really come. And with it the length of the patience cords that air travelers should have in their hand luggage at the start of their vacation.