Travel will be difficult this Monday in Germany. A strike movement of an extremely rare scale has begun to paralyze the entire transport sector, while the unions are demanding wage increases in the face of inflation.
Employees of airports, rail, sea freight, motorway companies, local transport are called from midnight to 24 hours off work. This 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 the Post Office. Unlike countries like France, such a unitary movement between the EVG and Ver.di unions, representing 230,000 railway company employees and 2.5 million service employees respectively, is extremely rare.
An extremely rare “Mega-Streik”
This “Mega-Streik” (mega-strike), as the German media have already dubbed it, affects a country where prices have soared for more than a year, with inflation reaching 8.7% in February . The unions are demanding more than 10% salary increase. Opposite, employers (States, municipalities, public companies) are offering an increase of 5% with two single payments of 1,000 and 1,500 euros.
EVG and Ver.di expect a “wide mobilization”. Deutsche Bahn has therefore decided to completely suspend mainline traffic on Monday, warning that the disruptions would also be very significant in the region.
The federation of German airports for its part denounced a strategy of “escalating strikes on the model of France”, where days of mobilization follow one another against the pension reform. “A social conflict that has no repercussions is a harmless social conflict,” replied Frank Werneke, president of the Ver.di union.
The strike rather than the usual consensus
The ground is increasingly favorable to the social movement in Germany, which is moving away from the culture of consensus that has made its reputation. “There have been more strikes in the past ten years than in previous decades,” observes Karl Brenke, expert at the DIW economic institute. In 2015, a record was recorded, with more than 2 million strike days in the year. Real wages increased systematically from 2014 to 2021, except in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The momentum was broken by inflation in 2022, with a decline of 3.1%.
After the threat of an “open-ended strike”, the 160,000 employees of Deutsche Post, who negotiate separately, have already obtained an average salary increase of 11.5% in early March. And at the end of 2022, nearly 4 million German industrial workers won an 8.5% wage increase over two years, after several weeks punctuated by work stoppages.