Nationwide warning strikes in social and educational services – Verdi is negotiating in Potsdam

For two and a half months, warning strikes and rallies have been taking place in the social and educational services nationwide. The third and, for the time being, last round of negotiations ends in Potsdam today. Workers fight for better contracts, higher grades and less workload. But the negotiations that Verdi, GEW and the German Association of Civil Servants are conducting with municipal employers will not solve any of their problems.

Since the beginning of the corona pandemic, day-care center teachers and social workers have proven themselves to be “systemically relevant” workers. They have been working the whole time at great risk, many of them are sick with Covid-19. In the working-class districts and social hotspots, they bear the brunt of childcare, child and youth welfare, refugee assistance and assistance for the disabled. But their conditions have not improved in seven years since the big daycare strike of 2015. Due to the great stress and poor pay, the day-care centers now lack more than 173,000 employees.

Striking kindergarten teachers in Frankfurt am Main [Photo: WSWS]

Thousands have taken to the streets nationwide in recent weeks. Several hundred social workers came to Hanover on May 2nd for a day of action, and on May 4th there were more than a thousand educators in Frankfurt am Main. 10,000 educators gathered in Gelsenkirchen on May 11, over 2,000 in Hamburg on May 12, and another 2,000 demonstrated in Munich.

Large rallies also took place in Kiel, Stuttgart, Leipzig and elsewhere. Hundreds of underpaid employees of charities and church organizations protested in Marburg. They are not directly affected by the current negotiations, but also work as social workers in schools, in centers for the disabled and as street workers.

Despite a boycott by the big media, the social workers and day care center employees managed to make it clear to the public that things cannot go on like this. “The day-care centers are bursting at the seams, we have no staff,” as a teacher in Frankfurt put it. Another added: “I can’t take it anymore, I’m already exhausted by 11 a.m..”

A daycare manager in Bremen said: “I wish that the politicians would work with us for at least one day. Then maybe they’ll see that this isn’t just talk from us. The situation is damn serious.” Many report on twitter about fears for the future: “I love my job, but I don’t think I can do it until retirement age.” Practically everyone agrees, if necessary, to strike longer and more severely.

The emergence of social and educational workers is part of a larger movement that is also increasingly affecting care workers. A strike at the university clinics in North Rhine-Westphalia has just been extended until May 26th. At the North Rhine-Westphalian university hospitals, over 98 percent voted for the indefinite strike. In Frankfurt am Main and in Stuttgart there have already been joint demonstrations by social workers and nursing staff.

Nursing staff on May 12 in Düsseldorf, during the open-ended strike at the university hospitals in North Rhine-Westphalia [Photo: WSWS]

This movement is by no means limited to Germany. Nurses are currently on strike in Madrid and California, demonstrating through Vienna and at the forefront of the social uprising in Sri Lanka. In Finland, nurses went on strike for two weeks in April. In Washington, nurses demonstrate for a colleague who is accused of being solely responsible for a tragic medication error. The willingness to go on strike is also increasing in industry and logistics.