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.
Der Streik der Gewerkschaft Verdi bei der BVG ist beendet. Der Verkehr auf den U-Bahn- , Straßenbahn und Buslinien läuft nun wieder an. Bis alle Linien wieder im gewohnten Takt sind, kann es aber in den nächsten Stunden noch zu Einschränkungen und Unregelmäßigkeiten kommen. #BVG
— BVG U-Bahn (@BVG_Ubahn) February 15, 2019
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.
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.
We have organized a shuttle service with buses between TXL S+U Jungfernheide. Alternatively, please use the footpath. Travelers are asked to arrange more time for their journey to the airport.
— Berlin Airport Service (@berlinairport) February 15, 2019
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 Berlin (@SBahnBerlin) February 15, 2019
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.
Due to a warning strike today #Berlin U stations look as #abandoned as #Südstern does in my photo series ? Full solidarity with #BVG people being on #strike ♥️
.#streik #warnstreik #verdi #weilwirdichlieben #visitberlin #germany #deutschland #iloveb… https://t.co/SPLwwM3wkG pic.twitter.com/SOsMDOa1IU
— U-Bahn Fotos (@ubahnfotos) February 15, 2019
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.
Am #Alexanderplatz wird Kolonne geradelt. Generell sind die Berliner erfinderisch, was Ersatztransportmittel anbelangt: Kickboards, Skateboards und sogar Rollschuhe (!) wurden bereits gesichtet. #Streik #Warnstreik #BVGStreik @Tagesspiegel pic.twitter.com/CrMmN42Yrk
— Silvia Perdoni (@S_Perdoni) February 15, 2019
Da ist BVG-#Warnstreik und irgendwie funktioniert Berlin trotzdem und viele Berliner gehen freiwillig (!) zu Fuß oder fahren gut gelaunt (!) mit dem Auto. Berlin, was ist denn hier los?? #BVGStreik #Streik pic.twitter.com/G4ZawyJsDW
— rbb Abendschau (@rbbabendschau) February 15, 2019
— Peter Mair (@mairpeda) February 15, 2019
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.
Ein Netz aus roten Punkten: Es staut sich jetzt an vielen Ecken in der Stadt, wie die Karte der @VIZ_Berlin zeigt. Liveblog zum #BVGStreik: https://t.co/PkUFNblJBy #Warnstreik #BVG #Streik pic.twitter.com/x9LHGuSCpo
— Tagesspiegel (@Tagesspiegel) February 15, 2019
Other people walked to work, with some leaving earlier than usual.
— Helene Richter (@HeleneIlka) February 15, 2019
Some people commented on how quiet areas of the city were on Friday since they were usually filled with trams. This is Alexanderplatz.
— Annika Leister (@AnnLei1) February 15, 2019
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.
Und während die Berliner ohne #BVG durch die Stadt kommen, geben ca. dreitausend BVG-Mitarbeiter vor der Zentrale ihren Unmut kund. Wir waren vor Ort, um mit #Streikenden zu sprechen. #BVGStreik #Warnstreik pic.twitter.com/IfjT3aaRiw
— rbb Abendschau (@rbbabendschau) February 15, 2019
Many people urged Berliners to show their solidarity with the strikers with the hashtag #Solidarität.
täglich durch diese Stadt fahren und das unter zum Teil sehr schlechten Bedingungen. Dieser #Streik tut nicht nur den Fahrgästen weh, sondern vorallem auch der #BVG und genau da muss er wehtun! Vergesst dies nie und zeigt #Solidarität!
— Kevin Paczkowski (@KevinPaczkowski) February 15, 2019
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.'
— Frauen*streik Komitee (@FemStreik) February 15, 2019
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.