Employees of Kitas, hospitals and other public service institutions in some German cities were walk out on Tuesday in a row over pay and working hours.
It means hospital patients and parents of day-care centre children, for example, could face disruption.
The so-called 'warning strikes' are supposed to be a prelude to other strikes in the following days – in Hamburg, for example, strikes will start on Thursday, affecting public sector employees.
On Friday, municipal hospitals and other government services in Berlin, as well as Kitas in Brandenburg could be affected by warning strikes.
Here's what's scheduled for Tuesday:
Administrative and Kita employees in the university town of Freiburg are heading out to the picket line, reported Spiegel Online.
In Gütersloh, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), union Verdi has called on employees of the municipal hospital, the city administration and Kita centres to stop working. By Tuesday morning, around 40 hospital employees had already gathered outside of the building.
Other NRW strikes are planned for public services, such as rubbish collection, in Unna, Duisburg and Remscheid.
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In the states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony, the Verdi union also announced public sector strikes for Tuesday.
In northern Kiel, employees of the municipal utility services, including rubbish collection, and the municipal hospital have been called on to take part in warning strikes.
In Augsburg, 60 employees working in the municipal sewage system sector began strikes Tuesday morning, reported DPA.
Why are workers striking?
Verdi called for the warning strikes to underline its wage demands in an ongoing dispute between the federal government and local authorities.
The wages of more than two million workers are set to be negotiated.
They are demanding a 4.8 percent wage increase, or a minimum of €150 extra per month – an agreement to be put in place until 2023.
The unions are also calling for working hours in east Germany to be shortened by an hour in order to match up with those in the west.
A sign in Duisberg reads “We're worth it” and is signed by “Your public services.” Photo: DPA
The wrong time to strike?
The German government and local authorities had not made an offer at the second round of negotiations in Potsdam at the weekend, outraging Verdi and the civil service association dbb.
The Association of Cities and Municipalities (Städte- und Gemeindebund), however, condemned the warning strikes.
These were “the wrong way to go”, chief executive Gerd Landsberg told Bild newspaper.
The tax revenues of the municipalities are likely to collapse in the coming years, in large part due to the coronavirus crisis, he said. This makes it especially important now to sound out compromises.
“Warning strikes during the pandemic seem to be out of step,” said Burkhard Jung, President of the Association of German Cities and Towns, to the newspapers in the Funke Media Group.
He added that the action put parents and children in Kitas, in particular, under additional strain.
However, the majority of German citizens showed understanding. According to a survey conducted by the Forsa Institute on behalf of German broadcasters RTL and n-tv, 63 per cent of the respondents support the strikes – including those who are likely affected by them. A total of 32 percent said they weren't in support of the strikes.