Mobilization in Fulda, Hesse, on February 9, 2023. (Photo: Friedhelm Windmüller via DBB)
On Thursday, February 9, public service workers from sectors, including health care, day-care, city administration, public transport, water distribution, universities, and municipal waste management, went on a warning strike protesting low wages and poor working conditions. The protest took place in the States of Berlin, North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), and Hesse, among others,
Over 3,500 people, including professionals from the state-owned Vivantes Hospitals, Charite-Berlin University of Medicine, Berlin Waste Management (BSR), and other public sector enterprises demonstrated at Oranienplatz in Berlin on Thursday to protest the fall in real wages. Trade union Ver.di and the German Civil Service Association (DBB) have demanded a 10.5% increase in wages—an increase of EUR 500 (USD 534.80)—for around 2.5 million employees in the public sector at the federal and local levels.
On February 7 and 8, teachers and school psychologists, among others, had joined in a warning strike called by the Education and Science Union (GEW), demanding smaller classrooms and better infrastructure and working conditions. Last week, around 70,000 postal employees across Germany also went on strike demanding a 15% increase in their wages.
As countries across Europe face soaring inflation, working class sections have been demanding a hike in wages at par with inflation. The German government, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, has, however, continued to be insensitive toward the demands of the workers, while busy sending more funds, arms, and ammunition to Ukraine. Citing the annual report by the Federal Statistical Office, trade Ver.di had said that “real wages have fallen in the country for the third year in a row. Even though wages have gone up compared to the previous year, inflation will be more than double that in 2022, nearly 8%.”
On February 9, Ver.di union said: ”Something happened today! Nationwide, federal and local employees took to the streets and showed with their strike actions that they firmly support the demands of the current wage round in the public sector. A hotspot was definitely NRW, where thousands took to the streets in different cities. Thousands also marched towards Oranienplatz in Berlin and confronted Berlin politicians with their demands. But also outside of the metropolises, for example on Sylt, Ver.di members stopped working because their wages are not enough to cope with inflation and high rents.”
“The last three years have meant more work for employees and less in the shopping cart. This also applies to those in the broken public services. Fair wages for employees are part of the urgently needed investments in welfare, because otherwise no one will keep the store running soon. And that’s why we are fighting for wage increases that offset inflation,” added the union.
On February 9, the Berlin committee of the Die Linke (The Left) expressed solidarity with the striking workers and said: “This week there were several strikes in Berlin. The postal workers went on strike for 15% more wages, Berlin teachers are demanding a collective agreement on health protection for smaller classes, and the public sector is talking about 10.5% or at least EUR 500 more. In view of the constantly increasing prices, high rents, and overcrowded classes, the demands of [our] colleagues are more than justified. We stand by your side in solidarity!”
The Berlin Committee of the German Communist Party (DKP) also expressed solidarity with the strikes.