Germany: Public transport strike paralyzes Berlin
16 February 2019
Thousands of public transport workers from the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) stopped work on Friday. From 3:30 in the morning to 12 noon, all subways and trams in the capital stood still and most of the buses remained in their depots. At a demonstration in front of BVG headquarters, 4,000 workers underscored their demands for a reduction in working hours and a significant increase in wages .
While workers’ anger is enormous, the public sector union Verdi is doing everything in its power to keep the strike under control and stop it spreading. On Wednesday, Verdi called a strike of public sector employees, only to call the BVG to strike two days later. The unions want to prevent the development of a common movement of all workers in Berlin, Germany and throughout Europe.
Verdi has collaborated closely with the parties in the Berlin Senate (state executive) to transform the urban transport operation into a low-wage enterprise, enabling it to make record profits at the expense of the workers. Verdi is now seeking to bring the anger that exists among workers under control through orchestrating the protest actions. The union even struggled to do this at the rally it organized in front of BVG headquarters.
“If nothing happens, things will blow up at BVG,” said industrial mechanic David, who works in BVG’s own workshops. The problem was the Senate, which has money for all sorts of things but was unwilling to pay workers properly. “BVG has made so much profit. They should use that to increase wages,” his colleague Marco added.
As many others at the demonstration also reported, Marco says he cannot live on his wages. After deducting…