Snow and transit strike shut down Berlin

Germany’s capital Berlin woke up to a snowy morning on Wednesday, as commuters struggled to get to work amid an extended transit strike. The rest of the country faced limited strikes at airports, clinics and daycare centres.

Snow and transit strike shut down Berlin
Photo: DPA

Berlin’s picketing bus and train drivers got help from mother nature as they kicked off what could be a harrowing ten-day strike crippling the public transportation network of Germany’s largest city.

“We’ve set up alternative service, but it’s really just an emergency option. It’s merely a drop in the bucket,” said a spokeswoman for Berlin’s BVG transportation network. “We hope the strike doesn’t last until next week Friday.”

But the transit shutdown in Berlin was only part of nationwide public sector strikes that threaten to paralyze German and ultimately damage the world’s third largest economy.

Verdi is holding talks with federal and municipal officials on behalf of 1.3 million civil servants. The powerful union has spent more than two weeks trying to ramp up the pressure on government officials to obtain salary increases of eight percent or a minimum of €200 euros ($300) per month. Public employers have proposed a five percent increase over two years, along with an extension of the work week from 38.5 hours to 40 hours.

The civil service strike was focused Wednesday on North-Rhine Westphalia, the country’s most populous state, where the union said 67,000 workers would stop work, crippling public transport as well as hospitals and day care centres in Cologne and Düsseldorf. Hospitals and clinics as well as garbage removal services have been affected in other cities earlier this week.