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More commuter chaos expected during all-day Berlin strike

Commuters in Berlin and Brandenburg will be faced with yet more disruption as public transport workers walk out for the second time in two weeks.

More commuter chaos expected during all-day Berlin strike
Public transport strikes have taken place in eight German states this week. Photo: DPA

The trade union Verdi, which represents around 87,000 workers from 130 public transport companies, announced the strikes on Tuesday.

In Berlin, all trams and U-Bahn lines, as well as most busses, will come to a standstill for 24 hours from 3am on Friday. The strike in Brandenburg will last from 3am until noon.

Not every public transport service will be affected, however. In the capital, S-Bahn lines and regional trains will continue to run, as well as bus lines run by private companies.

READ ALSO: Public transport strikes across Germany cause major disruption

The following bus lines will be running as normal in Berlin:

106, 112, 140, 161, 163, 168, 175, 179, 184, 234, 275, 284, 334, 341, 349, 363, 369, 370, 371, 380, 399 , 740, 744, N12, N23, N34, N35, N39, N40, N52, N53, N56, N58, N60, N61, N62, N67, N68, N69, N77, N84, N88, N90, N91, N95, N97 

In Brandenburg, the list of companies taking part in the strike limited to the following:

  • ViP Verkehrsbetriebe Potsdam GmbH

  • Regiobus Potsdam Mittelmark GmbH

  • Havelbus Verkehrsgesellschaft mbH

  • die Verkehrsbetriebe Brandenburg an der Havel GmbH

Call for negotiations

Verdi hopes that further ‘warning strikes’ – or a lead up to further actions – will put pressure on public service employers to agree to their demands.

The trade union is calling for a nationwide standard pay for its workers to combat growing discrepancies in wages between different states.

Other demands include extra leave or special bonuses to relieve the strain on employees, as well as policies focussing on the recruitment and development of young workers. 

Risk to health?

As coronavirus cases in Germany continue to rise, concerns that the strike could heighten the risk of infection were rejected by Verdi representative Jeremy Arndt. 

“The employers are leaving us with no other choice, as they simply don’t want to negotiate with us”, he told the broadcaster RBB (Radio Berlin Brandenburg) on Thursday. “Unfortunately we have to go ahead.”

He pointed to the nationwide strike that took place on September 29th, arguing that “the expected chaos on public transport networks was avoided”. 

Many simply travelled by bike, and additional S-Bahn services prevented trains from becoming overcrowded. Arndt expects that “the same will be the case tomorrow”.

A bad time

The German Association of Municipal Employers (VKA) rejected Verdi’s demands once again on Tuesday, expressing criticism toward the second round of strikes. 

“These warning strikes are not just an unreasonable burden for the population, but also for the local transport companies already struggling to cope with the enormous loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus crisis”, said the association on Tuesday.

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

Christine Behle, Vice President of Verdi, sees it differently. “We announce the strikes well in advance to allow citizens to plan around the situation”, she said. 

Public transport strikes have taken place in various German states over the course of the past week, with Hessen affected on Tuesday, Lower Saxony and Bremen on Wednesday, and Badem-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday. 

There will also be strikes until noon in nine towns in Bavaria, including Regensburg and Nuremberg, on Friday.

“We are already expecting that employers will change their tune and enter into negotiations with us,” said Arndt. “If not, expect the strikes to continue.”

 

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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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