IN PICTURES: Berlin public transport strike ends but more disruption expected

The strike by employees of Berlin's public transport operator BVG has ended – but passengers should still expect disruption throughout Friday.

IN PICTURES: Berlin public transport strike ends but more disruption expected
Thousands of BVG employees and union members demonstrated in Berlin on Friday during the so-called 'warning strike'. Photo: DPA

The strike by 'Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe' (BVG) employees officially ended at 12 noon. Travel information centres announced that buses, the U-Bahn underground system and trams would be up and running again, but that delays and irregular services were to expected.

The BVG said traffic on the tube, tram and bus routes was starting again but until all the lines were back to normal, disruption could be expected over the next hours.

On Friday morning, buses and trams remained in depots, while many U-Bahn gates stayed locked, as travellers were forced to find other means of transport to get to work or travel through the city.

Over the course of the morning there was also a huge demonstration by BVG employees and union members in the centre of Berlin.

SEE ALSO: Strikes shut down schools and offices in Berlin on Wednesday

The strike started at 3:30 am. It was being held over a dispute regarding pay and conditions, and was the workers' first strike since 2012 when they walked out on a Saturday for 15 hours.

“The strike is going according to plan”, a spokesman for the union Verdi said on Friday morning, reported DPA.

The union has also not ruled out the possibility of further strikes.

An information sign in English alerting passengers about the strike. Photo: DPA

Many people with early morning flights faced huge disruption getting to the airport. Along with the U-Bahn services, the bus lines TXL, X9, 128 and 109 to Tegel airport were not due to be in operation until noon. Passengers travelling to and from Schönefeld were advised to switch to the S-Bahn or regional trains.

However, shortly after 9 am, Berlin airport services (BER) organized a shuttle bus to take passengers to Tegel from the Jungfernheide S and U-Bahn station.

The S-Bahn system, which is operated by Deutsche Bahn, was not affected directly by the strike. Many people switched to S-Bahn trains to get to their destination.

S-Bahn services and regional trains were over-crowded as people flocked to them during the strike.

At Ostbahnhof on Friday there was overcrowding. Photo: DPA

The Berliner Zeitung reported that the S1 (Zehlendorf-Potsdamer Platz) and the S5 (Mahlsdorf-Warschauer Straße) was planning a total of around 50 additional journeys, which may have eased some of the congestion.

The ring bahn at Ostbahnhof was packed. Photo: DPA

The U-Bahn stations which had their gates unlocked looked like ghost towns.

Those stations with the gates shut left many passengers perplexed.

A woman at Alexanderplatz station. Photo: DPA

Many people got on their bikes to travel across the city in the morning. Luckily, the sun was out.

The strike also resulted in lots of people switching to their cars. This meant traffic was particularly heavy, especially during rush hour.

The red parts in this graphic by the Tagesspiegel show where the worst traffic jams were this morning.

Other people walked to work, with some leaving earlier than usual.

Some people commented on how quiet areas of the city were on Friday since they were usually filled with trams. This is Alexanderplatz.

A total of 28 subcontracted bus lines and all ferries were excluded from industrial action because subcontractors are not on strike.

– The following bus lines ran: 106, 161, 162, 163, 168, 175, 179, 218, 234, 263, 275, 320, 322, 334, 341, 349, 363, 365, 371, 373, 399

– The following bus lines were operating with some restrictions: 112, 140, 184, 283, 284, 370 and 893

– The BVG ferry lines were also in operation. There are six ferry lines at locations including Wannsee and Müggelsee.

Some BVG employees picketed at different locations throughout the city during the strike. Here, an employee wears a bib with the line: 'We are worth it' on it, early on Friday morning. Photo: DPA.

Berlin and Brandenburg broadcaster RBB posted a video on Twitter of the huge number of employees protesting at the BVG headquarters.

Many people urged Berliners to show their solidarity with the strikers with the hashtag #Solidarität.

This tweet shows a picture of graffiti on an U-Bahn train. It says: 'Dear BVG employees, we wish you lots of success in the collective bargaining negotiations, higher wages and shorter working hours.'

What's the strike about?

Verdi demands that the weekly working time for employees who joined the BVG after 2005 be reduced from 39 to 36.5 hours – with full wage compensation.

This would require 500 additional employees, said Claudia Pfeiffer, managing director of the local employers' association (KAV), earlier this week.

The negotiations on the new collective agreement for the 14,500 employees are also about a fairer classification in the wage and salary table. The Christmas bonus of €1,400, which is only paid out after one year of being an employee, should also be paid earlier, according to the union.

The trade union has also demanded a one-off payment of €500 from the BVG for its members. The bottom line is that all the improvements demanded would increase the BVG's annual personnel costs (most recently around €570 million) by €60 million, according to Verdi.

The union has warned that more strikes could take place.

BVG bosses have described the strike as “completely inappropriate”.

It's the latest in a long line of strikes to hit Germany as negotiations over pay take place. There's been industrial action by airport staff and public service workers.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.