Germany threatened by massive public sector strikes

The ongoing public sector labour dispute in Germany has reached a boiling point. Everything from trash collection to German airports could be affected by paralyzing strikes this week.

Germany threatened by massive public sector strikes
Photo: DPA

The public service sector union Verdi is threatening massive strikes across the public service spectrum in Germany. The strikes will affect the entire nation and include, among others, workers from hospitals, public transportation, waste disposal, and daycare facilities.

“The mood is tense. The first nationwide warning strikes in all sectors will be on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Verdi spokesperson Harald Reutter told German tabloid daily Bild.

Verdi is also threatening to include airports in Germany’s upcoming public service strike, according to the Monday edition of Hanover daily Neue Presse. The paper writes that the union hopes to paralyze almost every German airport on different workdays. With no workers, the airports will likely have to close for security reasons. But it remains unclear which occupations will participate in the strike. The Dresden, Leipzig/Halle and Bremen airports have in-house contracts and won’t be affected by the strike.

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück told German daily Frankfurter Rundschau that he is in favour of salary increases for the public workers. Many people have less money in their pockets than four or five years ago, he said in the paper’s Monday edition.

“Therefore, I advocate the salary increases, which will reflect a better economic environment,” he said. Public workers should have a chance to take part in economic development, he added: “There won’t be a pay freeze as in previous years.”

This most recent threat of strikes is part of an ongoing labour dispute in Germany over public service sector pay. Because the conflict encompasses so many different industries and unions, collective strikes could create unprecedented chaos for the German economy. Last week, Berlin public transport workers voted almost unanimously to strike on Wednesday this week.

Verdi is demanding a pay increase of 8 percent, or a minimum increase of €200 a month for public service workers. So far, employers have offered an pay increase of 5 percent to be implemented in several stages and an increase in hours from 38.5 to 40 hours per week. Collective union bargaining will resume at the end of this week.