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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Major German trade union wins pay hike, averting strikes

Germany's biggest trade union agreed Friday on wage hikes totaling 8.5 percent that are expected to cover almost four million workers facing soaring inflation, averting a major strike in Europe's top economy.

Major German trade union wins pay hike, averting strikes

The deal will be closely watched across the continent, which is facing spreading industrial action as employees demand large pay increases to cope with rising costs, particularly of energy.

The agreement between IG Metall union – which represents workers in Germany’s key metal and electrical sectors, and is seen a trend setter for setting wages nationwide – was reached early Friday after weeks of talks and walkouts.

The so-called “pilot agreement” in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, which is expected to eventually cover about 3.9 million workers across Germany, lays out how the pay increase will be introduced in two stages, in 2023 and 2024.

It also includes a €3,000 payment to combat the impact of inflation.

“Employees will soon have significantly more money in their pockets – and permanently,” said Joerg Hofman, president of IG Metall.

The union had initially called for an eight percent increase over 12 months, the biggest hike since 2008.

Its members are from a vast range of key businesses, from automotive to electronics.

Workers have been ratcheting up pressure – with demonstrations, and a series of “warning strikes” at the end of October, which are walkouts for a limited duration, which often accompany salary negotiations in Germany.

READ ALSO: German industry workers to strike from Saturday

If no deal was reached, then the union was poised to launch more serious strikes lasting 24 hours.

While companies are under pressure to hike wages to cope with rising costs, there are fears that raising them too sharply could stoke already sky-high inflation.

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