Public worker strike drags on in wage dispute

Public worker strike drags on in wage dispute
Bus drivers near Hamburg stay warm on Monday morning during protests. Photo: DPA
Public workers’ union Verdi called for strikes in northern Germany on Monday as their wage dispute with state and municipal employers continued.

Verdi members from different sectors in Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania and Rhineland-Palatinate walked off their jobs as the morning shift began.

In Hannover, bus and metro drivers didn’t show up, with a total of 1,000 public transportation workers in the city planning to do the same as the day progressed, a Verdi spokesperson said. Busses and trains also remained at rest at depots in Mainz, where the entire local transportation system was disrupted.

Meanwhile kindergarten, hospital and municipal administrative workers also took part in the strikes, which Verdi hopes will encourage employers to give them a five percent wage increase.

Child care centres in Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg stayed closed, and winter services were also partly closed. In Schwerin some 900 public administrators took a stand.

Hospitals in Hannover were also forced to cancel planned surgeries. Strike participation has been high, a Verdi spokesperson said, but patients in a medical emergency would still be treated.

More than 10,000 Verdi members are expected to attend a rally in Hannover, where union leader Frank Bsirske will speak.

State and municipal employers have complained that the union’s demands are too high as they struggle with empty coffers following the financial crisis. The last round of negotiations collapsed with no agreement, and a third round are planned for Wednesday in Potsdam.

Over the weekend Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière chided Verdi for its demands.

“In the current situation the unions need to say honestly what their demands mean: higher taxes, more debt, higher child care fees, and the closure of libraries, theatres and swimming halls,” he said. “And this is not my understanding of what is in the overall interest of the state.”

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