Public service and public transport: where there is a strike?

The ver.di union and the German Association of Officials are continuing their warning strikes this week. This time too, public transport and municipal facilities such as daycare centers and nursing homes are affected.

Who is striking for what?

There are currently warning strikes in two collective bargaining disputes: in the public service of the federal government and municipalities and in local public transport. Ver.di and the German Association of Officials (dbb) are demanding 4.8 percent more money per month, at least 150 euros, for a contract period of twelve months for the nationwide 2.3 million employees of the federal government and municipalities. The remuneration of the trainees is to be increased by 100 euros, the partial retirement regulations are to be improved and the working hours in the east are to be aligned with those in the west. Two rounds of negotiations have ended unsuccessfully, a third is for the 22./23. Scheduled for October.

Ver.di calls for nationwide collective bargaining for the 87,000 employees in local public transport. So-called sectoral collective agreements are currently in force there, and they differ greatly from state to state. Therefore, the union would like to supplement this against a nationwide uniform regulation. Public transport is also part of the public service, but the two collective bargaining conflicts have nothing to do with each other.

Where is the strike?

There are thousands of different job profiles in the public service. Here, among other things, educators, employees of baths, firefighters, nurses, administrative employees, geriatric nurses, sewage works employees, foresters and doctors work. None of these professional groups were exempted from the strikes.

In addition, there are the warning strikes in local public transport, which already had a massive impact at the end of September, especially for commuters. In many German cities there were hardly any buses or trains for hours.

When is the strike??

There are warning strikes this week in ten federal states: in Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Bremen, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Baden-Wurttemberg and Bavaria.

Public transport will go on strike on Tuesday in Hesse, Wednesday in Bremen and Lower Saxony, Thursday in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Wurttemberg and on Friday in Bavaria. In the public service, daycare centers, nursing homes, clinics and administrations are again affected. ver.di assumes that fewer citizens will be affected by the warning strikes in the public service this time.

How likely is a large wave of strikes?

Employers and trade unions are still insisting on opposing positions in both collective bargaining disputes. Already at the start of the second round of negotiations in the public service, the negotiator of the municipalities, Luneburg’s Lord Mayor Ulrich Madge, declared: "We are far apart." And after the talks, ver.di boss Frank Werneke spoke of a scandalous behavior, a delaying tactic and a misunderstanding of the seriousness of the situation with the municipal employers.

In the case of public transport, there are currently not even nationwide tariff talks. It is the declared aim of the union to achieve this with the warning strikes. According to ver.di Deputy Federal Chairwoman Christine Behle, employers are currently not ready to negotiate. "That torpedoes any effort to achieve a traffic turnaround." With its demands, ver.di provided suggestions "how the pressing issues of relieving work and promoting young talent can be solved," said Behle.

Which speaks for comparatively mild strikes?

The infection protection. The unions do not want to hold street demonstrations without keeping the distance. And trade union strategists are calculating that after the daycare closings in spring, many parents would probably have little understanding for closed facilities because of the wage dispute. As a precautionary measure, the union side assures that daycare centers would not go on strike for more than one or two days at a time. In the health service, among other things, many employees also consider the work ethic to be particularly strong in times of crisis – warning strikes in the middle of the pandemic could therefore be difficult for many employees.

How have the reactions been so far??

Mixed. On the one hand, many citizens express understanding for the concerns of the employees and see the right to strike as a fundamental democratic achievement. In the Corona crisis, sectors such as education and care, in which the staff earn comparatively little, have come into focus and are generally recognized as "systemically relevant". That is why many people share the demand for more wages. On the other hand, the strikes hit many citizens who have already struggled with difficult conditions due to the pandemic – such as daycare closings.

What are the prospects for an agreement?

There are now positive signals from politics – at least for the public service. In view of the stresses and strains of the Corona crisis, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has promised the employees there wage increases. "We must not be satisfied with the fact that we have repeatedly spoken of heroes in recent months," said the CSU politician recently in the Bundestag. This must also come into play in the current collective bargaining round. "That is why we will make a sensible offer in coordination with the local authorities for these heroes so that they are not disappointed," announced Seehofer. So far, however, the employers have not submitted an offer.

In public transport, on the other hand, the union and employees are still waiting for the employers to agree to nationwide collective bargaining negotiations. So far, the Association of Municipal Employers’ Associations (VKA) has rejected this, with reference to ongoing negotiations in the individual regions.