Germany-public sector workers strikes and protests for better wages

 The strikes and protests erupted after negotiations failed to increase wages and better working conditions  

The public sector workers in hospitals, local government, kindergarten, day care centres and civil service has been organizing warning strikes and protests across Germany. The strikes erupted after negotiations to increase wages and working conditions failed.

The first regional protests and warning strikes have begun in Germany, after two rounds of collective bargaining negotiations failed to diffuse a dispute over wages and working conditions for the 2.3 million public sector employees in Germany. Local authorities, day care centres, and hospitals are just some of the institutions affected. 

The public sector workers across Germany will join so-called “warning strikes” protesting against working conditions in kindergartens, hospitals, municipal utility services, and other public service institutions. The strikes are expected to continue in the coming days, with action expected in towns and cities across Germany. 

In Gütersloh, for example, around 40 employees gathered in front of the hospital on Tuesday morning. Ver.di official Volker Hoppmann said, “Clapping is not enough - we want to be paid decently.” Strike action was also reported in Augsburg, Freiburg, Unna, Duisburg, Remscheid, and Kiel, and in other locations across North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, and Lower Saxony. 

Industrial action is also scheduled to take place in other parts of the country later in the week. Public sector employees in Hamburg, for example, will go on strike next week. 

The trade unions called for the warning strikes after collective bargaining for the approximately 2.3 million workers working in federal and local governments remained unsuccessful. Ver.di chairperson Frank Werneke called the strikes “inevitable.”

His trade union federation and the German civil service federation are demanding a 4.8 percent wage increase - or a minimum of 150 Euros extra per month - and for training allowances and internship fees to be increased by 100 Euros per month. They are also calling for working hours in eastern Germany to be shortened to match up with those in the west. 

So far, employers have not made an offer on these demands - prompting the unions to call a strike on Sunday. A third round of negotiations is scheduled to take place on October 22 and 23. 

Although the strike is expected to cause fairly widespread disruption, a recent opinion survey has found that the majority of people in Germany sympathise with its aims. According to a Forsa survey commissioned by the broadcasters RTL and N-TV, 63 percent of respondents indicated support for the strikes. 

49 percent considered a wage increase of 4.8 percent to be appropriate, while eight percent said that the increase was too low. A clear majority of 78 percent agreed to the demand that care workers in the public sector should receive a larger wage increase. 

The mood is angry. As in other countries, only a few months ago politicians praised front line workers, especially those staff in hospitals, care homes, kindergartens and the public transport for their heroic work during the first Corona-19 virus wave. Now they say they want a wages ‘zero-round’, fueling anger.

More than 90% of all bus and local train staff struck for one day on September 29. In the public sector, hospital workers are very angry. For the last five years, various struggles have taken in many hospitals, mainly on the question of a lack of staff.

 Many nurses, but also cleaners and other hospital staff, feel they are overworked and underpaid. A result was that it was not rare that calls by workers for an extra 500 euro a month were raised in discussions before the union made its formal demands. Some activists felt the demands now on the table are not enough. While inflation is officially low, with prices for cars and other ‘big item’ purchases going down, food and rent costs are rising at a much faster rate.

                                                                    Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy  Editor 

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