Public workers strike across Germany

Public workers’ union Verdi called temporary strikes across Germany on Wednesday, cutting service to transportation networks, waste disposal, hospitals, child care centres and municipal administrative offices.

Public workers strike across Germany
Photo: DPA

The action is part of a labour dispute with state employers and is meant to pressure them into giving workers a five percent wage increase.

The early morning strikes affected hospitals in Munich, Wolfsburg, Frankfurt, Koblenz and Berlin.

At the Vivantes hospital in Berlin’s Neukölln district some 60 workers walked off their jobs, forcing the cancellation of scheduled surgeries. Emergency surgeries will still go ahead, Verdi said.

Workers at other clinics in Lower Saxony in Bremen planned to strike later in the day.

Waste disposal services in Nuremberg came to a stop too.

But Verdi said it would refrain from calling street maintenance workers to strike in cities still struggling to clear roadways after several snow storms.

The temporary strikes follow months of negotiations in which the workers have tried to gain better pay and new contract rules. On Monday a second round of talks between unions and employers in Potsdam collapsed.

Details of other affected cities was expected to be released throughout the course of the day.

A Verdi leader reportedly gathered some 50 union members outside a hospital in Frankfurt-Höchst, meanwhile another 2,500 were expected to meet before Frankfurt city hall by midday.

Meanwhile Verdi head Frank Bsirske defended the strikes against critics who have said city and state employers simply can’t afford pay raises following the financial crisis.

Because Germany is “in the middle of a crisis,” Bsirske told broadcaster ARD, the country should “counterbalance” the situation in order to overcome. He also complained that employers had yet to produce a concrete offer for a deal.

But president of the VKA association for municipal employers Thomas Böhle told radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk it was unclear “what lies behind the unions’ five percent,” and called the warning strikes “totally inappropriate.”

He also called a five percent pay raise an “unrealistic number” because the financial situation of most communities is “really bad.”

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Four injured as WWII bomb explodes near Munich train station

Four people were injured, one of them seriously, when a World War II bomb exploded at a building site near Munich's main train station on Wednesday, emergency services said.

Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich.
Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Privat

Construction workers had been drilling into the ground when the bomb exploded, a spokesman for the fire department said in a statement.

The blast was heard several kilometres away and scattered debris hundreds of metres, according to local media reports.

Images showed a plume of smoke rising directly next to the train tracks.

Bavaria interior minister Joachim Herrmann told Bild that the whole area was being searched.

Deutsche Bahn suspended its services on the affected lines in the afternoon.

Although trains started up again from 3pm, the rail operator said there would still be delays and cancellations to long-distance and local travel in the Munich area until evening. 

According to the fire service, the explosion happened near a bridge that must be passed by all trains travelling to or from the station.

The exact cause of the explosion is unclear, police said. So far, there are no indications of a criminal act.

WWII bombs are common in Germany

Some 75 years after the war, Germany remains littered with unexploded ordnance, often uncovered during construction work.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about WWII bomb disposals in Germany

However, most bombs are defused by experts before they explode.

Last year, seven World War II bombs were found on the future location of Tesla’s first European factory, just outside Berlin.

Sizeable bombs were also defused in Cologne and Dortmund last year.

In 2017, the discovery of a 1.4-tonne bomb in Frankfurt prompted the evacuation of 65,000 people — the largest such operation since the end of the war in Europe in 1945.