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STRIKES

Passengers face disruption as bus drivers in Berlin set to strike

Public transport users in Berlin will face huge disruption Thursday as bus drivers go on strike in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Passengers face disruption as bus drivers in Berlin set to strike
Archive photo shows a BVG bus travelling to Tegel Airport in Berlin. Photo: DPA

The powerful trade union Verdi called for bus drivers at Berlin’s public transport operator, the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), to down their tools and walk out as part of a so-called ‘warning strike’.

It is due to come after a day of chaos for passengers last month when BVG employees went on strike, halting most buses, trams and U-Bahn trains.

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

Bus drivers, and associated workers such as mechanics, are poised to stop working from 3.30 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday (March 14th), Verdi announced on Tuesday evening.

The operation of the Berlin U-Bahn (subway) and tram is not directly affected in this action, although services may be busier than usual. The S-Bahn lines are also not affected because these trains belong to the operator Deutsche Bahn. Regional trains are not operated by BVG either.

The union is staging the action during negotiations over pay and conditions. 

“The goal is to use this warning strike to increase the pressure on employers in the current negotiations,” Verdi negotiator Jeremy Arndt said.

Transport bosses warned there would be a lot of disruption.

“Unfortunately, our passengers will have to adjust to considerable restrictions in local transport,” the BVG said in a statement.

The BVG believe the bus network will be at a standstill for the strike and will remain irregular for a few hours after the end of the industrial action. Normal traffic is not expected to resume until Friday.

BVG is the largest municipal transport company in Germany and, with more than 2.9 million customer trips per day, it's the backbone of Berlin's local public transport system.

SEE ALSO: Public service strikes continue as Potsdam talks fail

What you need to know

On the outskirts of the capital, subcontractors are often on the road on behalf of BVG. This means that these services will be running — just like the last strike, reported the Tagesspiegel.

The following subcontracted bus lines are expected to be fully operational during the warning strike: 106, 161, 162, 163, 168, 175, 179, 218, 234, 263, 275, 284, 320, 322, 334, 341, 349, 363, 365, 371, 373, 380, 390, 399.

The following lines are slightly restricted: 112, 140, 184, 283, 370 and 893.

It’s also important to note that the bus services which run to Tegel Airport in the north of the city will not be in operation. However, Berlin Airport Services confirmed they would provide a shuttle bus from Jakob-Kaiser Platz-U-Bahn station.

The bus line from Rudow U-Bahn station to Schönefeld Airport will also not be in operation, but the S-Bahn and regional trains will continue to run to Schönefeld.

Why are workers striking?

Among other things, Verdi wants to implement a 36.5-hour working week with full wage compensation for the approximately 14,000 employees of BVG and its subsidiary Berlin Transport. Today, almost half of the employees have to work 39 hours — these are workers who have been hired since 2005. 

Negotiations have failed so far despite offers by BVG to the trade union.

The latest strike comes during a wave of industrial action sparked by separate disputes that's resulted in office and school closures around the country as well as flights being grounded. 

SEE ALSO: Strikes shut down schools and offices

During the last BVG strike which took place on Friday, February 15th, the majority of U-Bahn, tram and bus services were halted from early morning until 12noon. Traffic slowly resumed to normal afterwards.

Many people got on their bikes and travelled to work that way. Luckily they had good weather conditions, with blazing sunshine. On Thursday a few rain showers are expected but with reasonable temperatures of around 8C.

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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.

READ ALSO: 

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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