A strike movement of an extremely rare scale for Germany began on Monday March 27 to paralyze the entire national transport sector, while the unions are demanding wage increases in the face of inflation.
Employees of airports, rail, sea freight, highway companies, local transport are called from midnight (22:00 GMT) 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.
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 asking for more than 10% salary increase.
Employers (states, municipalities, public companies) offer a 5% increase with two single payments of 1,000 and 1,500 euros.
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EVG and Ver.di expect a
Deutsche Bahn 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 (DAV) has 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 soil 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 last ten years in Germany than in previous decades
,” observes Karl Brenke, an expert from the DIW economic institute interviewed by AFP.
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, according to Karl Brenke.
An average salary increase of 11.5%
Since the mid-2010s, they have succeeded in imposing increases, after a decade marked by the wage moderation policy of the Gerhard Schröder era, in the name of competitiveness.
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%.
"are tired of being led by the nose in collective bargaining"
, according to Karl Werneke.
The mobilization for wages in services has been accompanied since the beginning of the year by demonstrations.
"The price of gasoline and food has increased, my wallet has felt it"
summarizes AFP Timo Stau, 21, crossed in a demonstration on Friedrichstrasse, emblematic avenue of Berlin.
“We have kept the public service alive during the pandemic.
Now we want more money
,” adds Petra, 60, a customs officer.
Read alsoEight German airports paralyzed by staff strike
After the threat of an
, the 160,000 employees of Deutsche Post, who negotiate separately, have already obtained an average salary increase of 11.5% in early March.
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.
But the dispute is broader.
"It's not just a question of salary but of means
," Jan Exner Konrad, 34, told AFP, taking part in a demonstration by teachers in Berlin on Thursday.