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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday

The Local Austria
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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday
A sign reading 'control' ('Kontrolle') stands on the road at the German-Austrian border near Lindau, southern Germany. (Photo by STEFAN PUCHNER / DPA / AFP)

Flight cancellations again this week, drug controls after Germany's cannabis legalisation, Austrian unemployment soars and more news from Austria on Wednesday.

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Flight disruptions amidst Austrian Airlines labour dispute

Austrian Airlines (AUA) passengers will face flight cancellations again this Thursday. The airline's cabin crew plans a work meeting on April 4 to address the ongoing dispute over improved salaries.

Details regarding the duration of discussions and the consequent impact on flight operations remain uncertain, but over 90 flights have already been rescheduled or cancelled. Despite both sides expressing willingness to engage in dialogue, no significant progress has been made over the Easter weekend, suggesting a stalemate in collective bargaining negotiations between AUA management and cabin crew.

At the heart of the dispute is the union's demand to align the wage level of AUA staff with that of the Lufthansa Group, a proposition the company has thus far been unwilling to entertain.

AUA CEO Annette Mann's suggestion that the Lufthansa Group might opt for cheaper airlines to serve Vienna if demands are not tempered has drawn criticism from the union, describing it as "threats from the German side."

As discussions continue, the AUA Works Council will convene on Thursday to strategise the next steps with the workforce. Vida head Roman Hebenstreit has not ruled out the possibility of another strike, emphasising that "all steps" remain on the table.

The prolonged labour dispute, which has lasted weeks and involved 17 negotiation rounds, has resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations. Last Thursday, approximately 400 flights were grounded during a 36-hour strike, affecting around 50,000 passengers' travel plans.

READ ALSO: Austrian Airlines strikes: Are the two sides any closer to a deal?

Seven 'weird' foods in Austria you need to try at least once

Austria is much more than schnitzel and sausages and you can find some extraordinary dishes here, from fried brains to pancake soups.

Border controls after cannabis legalisation in Germany

In response to Germany's recent legalisation of cannabis for adults, neighbouring Austrian states, including Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg, are initiating "priority campaigns," as announced by the Ministry of the Interior in a press release today. The primary objectives are to tackle cross-border drug trafficking and address drug-related driving offences.

The press release outlines that law enforcement agencies will intensify checks, particularly in border-proximate areas. 

Plainclothes police officers and specialists from state traffic departments will be deployed for this purpose. The ministry highlights the training of hundreds of specialists nationwide who can identify signs of drug impairment.

READ ALSO:  Is cannabis legal in Austria?

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Austrian unemployment soars

In March, Austria witnessed a sharp uptick in unemployment, surging by nearly eleven percent to 6.9 percent. This significant rise has reignited discussions on non-wage labour costs and the efficacy of the "Red-White-Red Card" immigration policy. This prompted varied yet unanimous criticism from opposition quarters: the government's inaction is now exacting its toll.

At the end of March, 369,640 people were registered with the labour market (AMS). Of these, 291,468 were unemployed, and 78,172 people were taking part in AMS training courses, as announced by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the AMS on Tuesday. Construction and industry were particularly hard hit, with unemployment rising by more than 20 percent in both sectors.

ÖVP Labor Minister Martin Kocher contends that the current unemployment rate, while elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels, reflects the challenges the prevailing economic landscape poses.

READ ALSO: How Austria plans to cut the time it takes to get a work permit

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Highway closed after 'cucumbers blocked it'

A truck loaded with cucumbers paralysed the Westautobahn (A1) toward Salzburg on Tuesday, as reported by ORF. The articulated lorry swerved and came to rest across all lanes near Ybbs (Melk district). The A1 was closed for more than four hours, the report added.

According to the police, the accident occurred at around 1 p.m., and the highway was closed entirely in the direction of Salzburg. The overturned truck, which was carrying cucumbers, first had to be unloaded and could only then be recovered by the fire department with the help of a special crane. 

According to the ORF traffic department, the closure was lifted shortly before 5.30 pm.

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