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35,000 public-sector workers strike
BELOW IS a report of the first day of the current public sector strike which now involves 35,000 workers on strike in nine of the 16 federal states in Germany. These are the biggest strikes in the public sector since 1992, although the union leaders have only called out selected groups of workers.
There are actually three separate disputes taking place. Firstly there is the union demand that the regional states sign up to the wage agreement which the federal and local employees agreed to last year; this was a bad deal for many workers but nevertheless the federal states don't want to sign it because they want to be able to easily increase working time.
The second aspect of these strikes is against those local authorities that are now attempting to increase the working week from 38.5 to 40 hours with no extra pay.
The third sector involved in strike actions are university hospital workers. These strikes have been generally supported in strike ballots by over 90% of workers and public opinion polls show support of around 60% amongst the general population.
Stuttgart's public sector warning strike
TWENTY THOUSAND public- sector employees in the state of Baden-Wčrttemberg participated in a warning strike on 5 December. That was the dress rehearsal. 6 February saw the premiere of an indefinite strike against the extension of working hours being played out in south-west Germany.
Ursel Beck, Stuttgart, Sozialistiche Alternative (SAV), Germany (translation by Sean McGinley)
According to media reports, a total of 10,000 local authority employees in Baden-Wčrttemberg took part in work stoppages on the first day of the strike.
In the state capital Stuttgart, the participation was by far the highest. 5,000 striking employees took part in a demonstration through the city centre and a rally in front of the town hall. Not a single parking ticket was written, no rubbish was collected and the preparations for this summer's football World Cup were put on hold.
In the nurseries and the city hospital, only emergency cover was provided. There was only a limited snow clearing service on the roads. Rubbish collectors, nursery employees, nurses, administrative staff, cleaning women and workers from all across the public sector went on strike. A large number of apprentices also took part.
"We know that for this hospital alone an extension of the working week to 40 hours would cost 160 jobs" explained Dieter Janssen, SAV member and strike leader at the Bčrger hospital in Stuttgart. Addressing a strike meeting he added: "And we're not just striking for our jobs, but also for good working conditions, so that we can assure a good quality of care for our patients."
After a strike meeting, 120 employees of the Bčrger hospital formed a demonstration across the Heilbronner Strasse to the Katherinen hospital, where a short rally of all hospital employees was held.
On the way, other workers waved from the windows of the office buildings. Not even the bosses of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce could prevent their employees from showing their solidarity from the windows of their offices. "38.5 hours is the compromise - anything else is shit!" was the slogan resounding from the megaphone.
At the glass palace of the Baden-Wčrttemberg Bank, somebody opened a window and waved out a flag of the public sector union ver.di. Truck and car drives blew their horns to express solidarity.
After the strike meeting in front of the Katherinen hospital, the hospital employees marched together with several thousand colleagues from other local authority bodies through the city centre to the town hall. Rubbish collectors chanted: "[Mayor] Schuster out, Schuster out!"
Thomas Boehm, ver.di chairman in Stuttgart and chief shop steward at the City Hospital, said:
"It is claimed we have secure jobs and therefore we have no right to be on strike. In the last ten years, more than 100,000 jobs were lost in the public sector. In the hospital and in many other public institutions, many colleagues are only being hired on short-term contracts. Is that what one regards as secure jobs?"
"ON THE anniversary of people power, Filipinos may feel they need another revolution, one that turns their economy around, ends poverty and corruption, soup kitchens, shanty towns and children scavenging in bins."
So said a BBC commentator on 24 February as President Arroyo declared a formal state of emergency in the Philippines on the 20th anniversary of dictator Ferdinand Marcos's toppling.
Fuller report on the CWI website www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 2 March 2006: