Germany faces major strike week as numerous sectors threaten protests

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Germany faces major strike week as numerous sectors threaten protests
Farmers in tractors prepare for the journey to Berlin from Lüchow, Lower Saxony, on December 18th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp Schulze

From farmers demonstrating in Berlin to the GDL train drivers' union threatening week-long strikes, the second week of the new year could see Germany paralysed by industrial action.


Barely a week into 2024, Germany's traffic-light coalition is set to be under intense pressure as several sectors announce their intention to go on strike.

Following on from a major protest on December 18th that saw hundreds of farmers block roads in Germany's capital with their tractors, the Farmer's Association has pledged more demonstrations against the government's planned cuts to agricultural subsidies. 

From Monday, January 8th, farmers will launch another round of protests that could last until April, with a further mass demonstration planned in Berlin on January 15th.

Warning the public of things to come, Farmers' Association Joachim Rukwied said that farmers would protest "as the country has never seen before".

Farmers have been angered by austerity measures in the budget for 2024, which include cutting a partial tax rebate for diesel and subsidies for agricultural vehicles. 

READ ALSO: Disruption as farmers on 1,500 tractors protest in Berlin

Though these cuts have since been watered down in the wake of the December protest, the farmers' lobby says this doesn't go far enough to keep German agriculture competitive.

However, there are worries that the upcoming protests could be hijacked by right-wing extremists.

"The protest from agriculture was successful because there were good arguments," said Greens politician Misbah Khan.

"The federal government has now followed them. However, it can currently be observed that right-wing extremists, Reich citizens and pro-Russia groups are infiltrating the protest, calling for violence and spreading fantasies of a coup."

It comes after farmers tried to storm a ferry carrying Economics Minister Robert Habeck, sparking outrage across Germany. 


Possible rail strikes

Beyond the planned farmers' protests, rail travellers could also be set for travel chaos from next week as a festive truce between the GDL train drivers' union and Deutsche Bahn comes to an end on January 8th.

Back in December, the union had voted to permit unlimited strikes: a form of industrial action with no stated end date that can drag on much longer than the usual 24-hour warning strikes.

The GDL is locked in a bitter dispute with Germany's national rail operator over pay and conditions, with the union calling for an extra €555 per month, an inflation bonus of €3,000 and a 35 rather than 38-hour work week.

GDL strike sign

A sign for the GDL train drivers' strike in December. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Moritz

Deutsche Bahn, meanwhile, has offered an 11-percent hike in pay but until now has refused to negotiate on the issue of working hours. According to GDL leader Claus Weselsky, talks on the length of the working week are a precondition for avoiding further strikes.

Meanwhile, while no set protests have been announced, it's also possible that GPs could add to the noises of discontent and once again close their doors to patients in protests at the government's planned healthcare reforms.


Between Christmas and New Year, thousands of surgeries closed in protest at what doctors say is an unfair salary system, understaffing in clinics and the burden of paperwork.

According to the doctors' association Virchowbund, who organised the protest, closures over the festive period are only the beginning.

READ ALSO: The strikes that could hit life in Germany in 2024


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