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Empty day care centers across Germany amid strike

Social workers have gone on strike to protest low wages. Left-wing politicians have shown their support for the strikers, citing low pay for "valuable work."

Highlighting the discrepancy between the need for social work, such as day care, with the realities of the salaries these jobs provide, childcare professionals and other social workers went on strike on Wednesday in the German states of Bavaria, Hessen, Saxony and Baden-Württemberg.

The strike was called by the labor union Verdi, following a similar move in Hamburg and Lower Saxony on Tuesday. Verdi, along with the Education and Science Workers' Union (GEW), is aiming for a wage increase of ten percent for approximately 240,000 employees, and promised employers over Easter that they faced a "fierce confrontation" if their demands were not met.

Politicians support strike

Left-wing politicians stood firmly behind the striking workers. Federal Minister for Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig, of the Social Democrats (SPD), told Wednesday's edition of the popular newspaper Bild that "caregivers supply valuable work, work that should be well paid."

"That's why it's important to come to a good conclusion at the wage negotiations," she added.

Bernd Riexinger, head of the opposition Left party, had even stronger words to share: "It is unacceptable that in everything to do with taking care of children or social work, the working conditions are bad and the salaries are low…we support the resolute strike of the employees."

The issue of salaries for caregivers has been a hot topic of debate in Germany. An aging population requires an increasing numbers of hospice nurses and the promise of a place in day care for every child has resulted in the much-maligned "care-allowance" for parents who stay home to take care of their children, as some places are unable to provide the necessary amount of day care centers and workers.

The strike also illustrates one side of the

gender pay gap

, as the larger percentage of employees in these fields are women.

Wage negotiations between the unions and employers are due to take place in Düsseldorf on Thursday. Verdi has sworn to continue the

strikes in the public sector

through May if employers remain stubborn.

es/jil (AFP, dpa)

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