German nursery schools go on strike in wage dispute

Nursery and all-day school workers across Germany have been called on strike in an escalating dispute over pay and conditions.

Strike in Hamburg
Nursery school workers protest over pay and conditions in the centre of Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

Berlin-based trade union Verdi called on employees in nurseries and all-day schools to go on warning strikes all day on Wednesday in a move to gain bargaining power for higher pay. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hamburg are believed to be the main states affected, with some areas relying on skeleton staff to keep services running. 

All-day schools (Ganztagsschulen) are also affected by the walkouts. 

As part of a round of strike actions in the education and social care sector, social workers staged a walkout on Monday.

Kindergarten teachers, nursery school workers, social assistants and other occupational groups from day-care centres and all-day schools followed suit on Wednesday, while carers for the disabled were expected to go on strike from Thursday. 

READ ALSO: Operations likely to be cancelled as German hospital doctors strike

Demand for better pay

The background to the so-called ‘warning strikes’, which have been taking place regularly for several weeks now, is the ongoing negotiations over pay and conditions in the education and social service sector. 

Verdi and the civil servants’ association DBB are demanding more money and more attractive conditions for around 330,000 workers in these sectors. 

In a previous strike called in March, the union pointed out that social workers are paid around €280 less per month than engineers, despite having the same level of education. 

They also complained of an urgent understaffing issue in the sector that they argued were placing employees under extreme pressure, especially in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. 

The employers’ side has criticised the warning strikes as disproportionate and claimed that the two sides are in constructive negotiations, with the next round due to take place on May 16th in Potsdam.

On Tuesday, Verdi leader Frank Werneke announced that there would be longer strikes if the next round of negotiations failed to lead to a breakthrough.

“At the moment we are striking for days at a time in the hope that the employers will finally move,” Werneke told Welt.

“If there is no movement at the third negotiation, we will extend the strikes.”

READ ALSO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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Operations likely to be cancelled as German hospital doctors strike

Scheduled operations at around 460 German hospitals are likely to be cancelled on Thursday after the Marburger Bund called on doctors to go on strike.

Operations likely to be cancelled as German hospital doctors strike

The strikes are taking place in around 460 hospitals across the entire country, with the exception of Berlin and Hamburg. 

“Scheduled operations will not be able to take place in most municipal hospitals today,” said Marburger Bund president Susanne Johna told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) on Thursday. “We are of course maintaining emergency services in these hospitals that are on strike.”

According to Johna, staffing in these hospitals is likely to be similar to weekend levels. 

The doctors are fighting for an improvement in their working conditions and hours, which they say have become worse throughout the pandemic. 

“The working conditions in hospitals are so bad in some places that many doctors leave the hospital and, for example, set up their own practice or go to work as employees in a medical care centre,” Johna told RND.

In the struggle to find an acceptable work-life balance, many doctors in Germany are opting for “80 percent” contracts that allow them to work fewer hours, the Marburger Bund president claimed. 

READ ALSO: German hospital workers poised to strike in wage dispute

“This means that colleagues are giving up a chunk of their salary in order to be guaranteed at least one day off per week,” she said.

The pandemic has exacerbated tough conditions for doctors, in particular on intensive care wards, emergency wards and infection wards. 

“In many intensive care units, patient care was recently only possible because doctors also took on nursing duties and worked even more overtime.”

The Marburger Bund is calling for approximately 55,000 doctors to receive a 5.5 percent pay rise over the course of a year, as well as strict upper limits on the number of times a doctors can be “on call” while not on duty. This should be capped at 12 per month, the association argues.

As a counter offer, employers have offered a pay rise of 3.3 percent in two stages.