Published on March 27, 2023 at 11:42
A “Mega-Streik” seizes Germany. In other words, a major strike movement has been declared in the country, particularly in the national transport sector, while the unions are demanding wage increases in the face of inflation. Employees of airports, rail, sea freight, motorway companies, local transport began at midnight a work stoppage for the next 24 hours.
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The mobilization is part of a context of growing social tensions in Germany, where strikes for wages have multiplied since the beginning of the year, from schools to hospitals, including La Poste. Contrary to what is customary in France where protest movements are part of popular culture, a movement of this magnitude which brings together both the EVG and Ver.di unions, representing respectively 230,000 employees of railway companies and 2 .5 million service employees, is extremely rare.
Demands for salary increases in the face of inflation
The German media have dubbed the movement “Mega-Streik” (mega-strike) as the country is badly affected by inflation which reached 8.7% in February. The tensions are mainly concentrated around the price of gasoline and food.
The movement’s main unions – EVG and Ver.di – are demanding a wage increase of more than 10%. For their part, employers (states, municipalities, public companies) are offering a 5% increase with two single payments of 1,000 and 1,500 euros.
Stations, airports and public transport blocked
Throughout the territory, “mainline traffic has been suspended, as have regional lines,” says Deutsche Bahn. As a result, no aircraft will fly from the main airports, namely Frankfurt and Munich.
In many metropolises, public transport is also greatly disrupted: in the Berlin capital, the S Bahn network – a set of trams and metros – is completely blocked. According to the EVG union, the strike is widely followed in the country. Since this Monday, March 27 in the morning, nearly “30,000 employees” in the railway sector have already stopped working.
The possible end of consensus culture in Germany
Social conflict was not so far inscribed in the DNA of Germany, better known for a culture of consensus which has made its reputation beyond the borders. Germany’s Federation of German Airports (ADV) denounces a strategy of “escalating strikes on the model of France”, where days of mobilization follow one another against pension reform. Faced with this attack, the president of the Ver.di union replied that “a social conflict that has no repercussions is a harmless social conflict”.
The German people are more and more favorable to social movements. “There have been more strikes in the last ten years in Germany than in previous decades,” observes Karl Brenke, expert at the DIW economic institute. The record was recorded in 2015 with more than 2 million strike days in the year.
Wage and resource demands
As a result, real wages increased automatically from 2014 to 2021, except in 2020 due to the health crisis. This positive dynamic was hampered by inflation in 2022, with a decline of 3.1%. With a particularly low level of unemployment since the end of the 2000s, the country suffers from a lack of manpower which puts the unions “in a position of strength” in negotiations.
At the end of last year, nearly 4 million German industrial workers won a wage increase of 8.5% over two years, after several weeks punctuated by work stoppages. But for the German strikers, the protest extends far beyond wage demands. Between the lines, it is also a question of resources.