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CHILDREN

Day care workers begin nationwide strike

Public day care workers began an open-ended strike in five German states on Friday in an ongoing wage and healthcare dispute. Parents were forced to find last-minute alternatives or stay home from work.

Day care workers begin nationwide strike
Photo: DPA

Twenty-six cities in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia went without state-run childcare, meanwhile 60 daycare centres, or Kitas, closed in the city-state of Bremen, public workers’ union Verdi said.

Workers in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein also took part in the bid to pressure state employers to better wages and healthcare protection for some 220,000 educators and social workers who work at the centres.

Verdi planned the strikes with the Education and Science Workers’ union (GEW), which has also helped organise widespread protests for Friday. Verdi head Frank Bsirske is expected to speak at a gathering in Cologne.

Another top Verdi figure, Achim Meerkamp, told broadcaster ARD that the union, which represents some 130,000 childcare workers, is prepared to dig in for a long strike. Depending on how employers react, the union could also call on other workers to strike, he said. On Friday, just 20,000 of these union members walked off their jobs.

“There’s still plenty of room to expand,” he said.

Daycare centre workers must have better health protection he said, citing a Verdi study that showed some 25 percent of the workers do not retire in good health. “The illnesses are increasing and the psychological pressures have clearly increased,” Meerkamp said.

He also highlighted massive payment inconsistencies, saying that anyone employed after 2006 makes €700 less per month than those hired earlier.

Meanwhile Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen told daily Ruhr Nachrichten that daycare workers deserve better payment and better career chances.

“Developing childcare must go along with better quality,” she told the paper. “This naturally costs money.”

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CHRISTMAS

Strikes hit Amazon in Germany in the run up to Christmas

Around 2,500 Amazon employees at seven sites across Germany were on strike on Tuesday and unions warned stoppages could continue up to Christmas.

Amazon parcel in factory
A parcel rolls along a conveyor belt at an Amazon packing facility in Gera, Thuringia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

The strikes at so-called “fulfilment” centres, where Amazon prepares packages before delivery, began in two locations on Monday.

The Verdi union is calling on Amazon for an “immediate” salary increase of three percent this year, followed by a further 1.7 percent next year, in line with a collective agreement for the retail sector, to which the e-commerce giant does not adhere.

Amazon could not continue to “refuse wage increases that other companies in the sector pay”, Verdi retail head Orhan Akman said in a statement Monday.

Amazon, which operates 17 centres in Germany, argues it is a logistics company, a sector in which the terms of work are considered to be less burdensome for the employer.

Amazon said it did not expect the strike to have an impact on clients.

However, a Verdi spokesman said the stoppage could cause disruption, particularly in Amazon’s rapid-delivery “Prime” offering.

Strikes were likely to continue “until the end of the year”, the spokesman said, impacting on the busy Christmas shopping period.

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Verdi, which first called for strikes at Amazon in May 2013, organised demonstrations outside the fulfilment centres on Tuesday to protest poor working conditions.

Amazon — which has seen its business boom during the coronavirus pandemic as consumers increasingly shopped online — announced in September that it would open eight new centres in Germany, creating 3,000 jobs by 2022.

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