1 December 2023

Public transport workers on strike in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 27, 2023.

Social issues rarely make headlines in Germany. This was the case on Monday March 27. For twenty-four hours, a strike movement of exceptional magnitude affected Europe’s largest economy, mainly in transport, almost completely at a standstill, but also in other sectors, such as hospitals or garbage collection. , partially affected.

This strike was over the wage issue. At the maneuver are the Ver.di and EVG unions, which respectively represent 2.5 million workers in services and 230,000 employees in the railways. Their goal was a 10.5% wage increase. A claim directly linked to inflation, which reached almost 9% over one year across the Rhine. In the transport sector, employers have so far only mentioned a possible increase of 5%.

A responsive government

Monday’s strike, the largest in German public services since 1992, according to the Ver.di union, is part of a tense sequence around wage issues. On March 8, International Women’s Day, nurseries and kindergarten staff went out of work across most of the country. Three days later, after a long confrontation with the Ver.di union, the German post office granted its 160,000 employees wage increases of 11% to 16%. On March 14 and 15, it was the employees of hospitals and retirement homes who called in turn to stop work.

In the summer of 2022, the fear of the German government was that of a “warm autumn” and a “Winter of Wrath”, agitated by both the left-wing Die Linke party and the far-right AfD. In the end, nothing happened. Some demonstrations did take place, mainly in the east of the country, but neither of these two political parties managed to mobilize the crowds. Both because of their own weaknesses, but also because the coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been very reactive to inflation. In particular by announcing, at the end of September 2022, a 200 billion euro plan intended to protect households and businesses against soaring energy prices.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Germany, strikes for wage increases are multiplying in services

While autumn and winter have been calmer than expected, spring, on the other hand, is off to a relatively tumultuous start. After Monday’s strike, the unions assured that they would not block transport during the Easter weekend, around April 10, but they do not rule out mobilizing again afterwards. “Employees are tired of being led by the nose in collective negotiations”, said Ver.di President Frank Werneke. Since the beginning of the year, the union has claimed 70,000 new members. “This is the strongest growth we have seen in over twenty years”says Werneke.

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