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Germany: Public transport strike in full swing

March 1, 2024

Trade union Verdi public transport strike has joined forces with Fridays for Future environmental movement, which has also called for nationwide protests.

An empty platform in Frankfurt
The warning strike, organised by the Verdi union, has hit 14 of the country's 16 states, including BerlinImage: Peter Henrich/HEN-FOTO/imago images

Germany's public transport services were largely out of operation on Friday amid a second round of strikes in the sector, called by trade union Verdi.

The union said that from February 26 through to March 2, there would be "waves of strikes in local public transport nationwide."

Working hours a sticking point

The key focus of the industrial dispute is on a reduction of weekly working hours for shift workers.

The union has said its talks over public transport workers' contracts have stalled as it seeks a reduction in working hours and more leave.

Verdi called for work stoppages on buses and trains in 14 of Germany's 16 federal states, including Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and Hamburg.

Buses, trams and underground trains stood empty across the country as the strike took effect.

BVG, the public transport operator in the German capital Berlin, called the strike "unnecessary and completely exaggerated."

Germany has been hit by numerous transport strikes in the past few months, with airport and rail strikes taking a particular toll.

Legitimate strikes in wage disputes

Verdi and Fridays for Future coordinate action

The regional strikes began in many places on Thursday and Verdi said Friday would be the "main strike day" to coincide with the "climate strike day" which was called for by the Fridays for Future (FFF) environmental movement along with other groups and associations.

FFF called for protests to take place in over 100 cities, with demonstrations and rallies planned across the country saying on its website: "Together with local transport workers, passengers and climate activists, we are taking to the streets for good work and climate-friendly mobility for all — in your city too!" 

The environmental group highlighted the strain being placed on workers in the transport sector with increasing workloads due to staff shortages and high levels of illness.

"Long shifts, short turnaround times, hardly any breaks and difficult-to-plan shifts — employees endure all of this to get us from A to B every day," FFF said in a statement announcing an alliance with local transport workers.

"A socio-ecological turnaround in transportation is possible — and helps us all," explained Liv Manthey from the climate protection movement Fridays for Future.

"With the climate strike on March 1, we are showing that the fight for relief for BVG employees, passengers and the climate can only be won together."

While Verdi's strike is due to end in Berlin at 2:00 p.m. (1300 GMT), it will continue in many other federal states until the early hours of Saturday.

kb/ab (dpa, AFP)

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