Public transport strikes across Germany cause major disruption

The public transport network came to a standstill on Tuesday across Germany, resulting in huge disruption for passengers.

Public transport strikes across Germany cause major disruption
In Marienplatz, Munich, a sign shows the U-Bahn is not operating due to the strike. Photo: DPA

Berlin, Hamburg, the Hanover region, Magdeburg, Kiel, Munich, Dresden, Leipzig, Freiburg, Konstanz, Mainz and Erfurt are among the cities affected, reported Spiegel.

U-Bahn trains, buses and trams in cities were running at extremely limited capacity or not at all in the so-called 'warning strikes' being held in a dispute over working conditions and pay.

READ ALSO: Commuters face chaos as public transport workers strike

Commuters urged not to travel unless necessary

Strikes in many regions including Brandenburg and Saxony are expected to last for 24 hours from 3am on Tuesday. However, the action is scheduled to last until 12noon Tuesday in some places, including Berlin.

Public transport firms across Germany called on travellers to only travel if it was necessary, or to switch to other means of transport. 

The action is not affecting S-Bahn services (such as those in Berlin and Munich) or regional trains.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, pupils who have long journeys to and from school do not have to attend lessons on Tuesday if their bus or tram isn't running.

On Tuesday morning, many union reps and workers stood on picket lines with posters.

The trade union Verdi called for the action in order to enforce a nationwide collective agreement for some 87,000 public transport workers. The union is calling for regulations on overtime compensation and allowances for shift work.

A man waiting at a bus stop in Dresden. Photo: DPA

They are also demanding measures to relieve the increasing strain felt by employees during the coronavirus crisis, such as extra leave or special bonuses, as well as policies focussing on the recruitment and development of young workers.

How is the strike affecting cities and regions?

In North Rhine-Westphalia alone, where the working conditions of 30,000 workers are at stake, Verdi believes more than 10,000 people are taking part in the warning strike over the course of the day, according to trade union spokesman Tjark Sauer.

READ ALSO: Explained: What sparked the protest culture of modern Germany?

In Wuppertal, authorities said there would be no buses at all on Tuesday and that the customer centres would be closed.

Frank Werneke, head of the Verdi union, said that massive disruptions in local transport were to be expected throughout Germany.

In Hamburg, employees of the Hochbahn and Verkehrsbetriebe Hamburg stopped work when operations began at 3am.

“Participation is high and the mood is good,” said Verdi Transport Department Manager Natale Fontana. The four underground lines in the Hanseatic city were completely shut down until midday, and the buses were running irregularly.

“It's not about money for us, but about working conditions,” said Fontana.

Verdi has also called on transport company employees in 11 Bavarian cities to take industrial action. According to the union, warning strikes are taking place in Munich, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Regensburg, Landshut, Fürth, Coburg, Bamberg, Aschaffenburg, Würzburg and Schweinfurt.

The strike is also affecting Cologne, and in Bochum, local transport is completely shut down.

“The local public transport system is in a difficult situation nationwide,” said Verdi deputy head Christine Behle. “After 20 years of austerity measures, the limits of resilience have been reached.”

Despite rising passenger numbers, 15,000 jobs have been cut in the last 20 years, said Behle. This has resulted in high sickness rates among employees and a lack of younger employees, the union said.

Employers' groups, however, slammed the strike, calling it an “attack on the general public”. Verdi said that the employers had “provoked the strike” by refusing to negotiate a nationwide framework collective agreement.

The Verdi union said no further public transport strikes are planned this week.

Separate strikes in the public sector

These strikes are not linked to the nationwide walkouts of public sector workers seen this week. 

READ ALSO: This is where workers around Germany are striking on Tuesday

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How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck!