Monday, March 10, 2008

Berlin Public Transport Strike

Here in Berlin we start another day without public transportation due to wide-spread strikes. The above-ground trains decided not to strike today as planned, but many people had already arranged alternate transportation and did not end up using the S-Bahn anyway.

N. pointed out this morning that having these long periods of transport black-outs is not really as effective as the short periods which are announced hours or a day before the event. If you have more time to arrange an alternate mode of travel, then it doesn't seem as inconvenient. Also you get used to this alternate mode pretty quickly, and don't really care about the strike so much anymore. Whereas having only a few hours or overnight to set something up is a bit harder. Thankfully the short-term stoppages only mess with your daily life for one or two days, then you get on with things as normal.

A wide variety of groups have gone on strike, Kindergarten employees, sidewalk cleaners, trash collectors, theater technicians, all of this the result of a fight between the Ver.di union and state employment negotiators. Ver.di is by far the largest union in the country and is fighting for an immediate 8% raise in salaries.

Also included in this group of state employees is our meteorologists ... what a worthless group of people anyway. The weather forecast is hardly ever correct, the high and low temperatures are rarely close to reality, and days which they say will be sunny may start out that way, but often end up in clouds or even rain. Let's just say that I've purchased one of the world's best umbrellas, (actually two, but that is another story) and simply carry the thing all the time.

What is interesting to me is reading the newspapers. Without fail the union men will point out that the public is "with them", and understands why they must strike, even being supportive. Personally I wonder who they are talking to... their own union workers? So far I haven't personally spoken with one person that is "with them" or supportive of the strikes. In my heart of hearts I can understand why they are striking... the country is experiencing an uptrend in wages, and these people just want to be included. My question is why must they insist on so much all at once? 8% is a HUGE amount. What good does it do to request something which no one can give them? Of course it might just be a bargaining tactic and what they really want is 5%... but do they really have to strike to get their message out? If they strike and hurt the economy then the companies and the city are no longer able to support that pay raise.

So far the strikes haven't been too bad to me. I've been getting car rides to and from work with N., one day I rode my bicycle, and since the weather is going to be nicer tomorrow (supposedly - see above) I'll possibly ride Mimi, our long-neglected motor scooter.

1 comment:

Dr. J said...

The S-bahn on strike would have been slightly disturbing to me as I'm in the West and most of my activities are in the East - an hour by bike (for a two hour meeting? no thanks!), and usually during hours when I can't easily get a lift. I don't have a german drivers licence (one of the many things that has to change this year) so it does start getting in the way of things.

I do support their desire for a pay rise- from what I understand the pay rates for most of the striking workers is pretty low- but I'm with you that the 8%, no negotiation strategy is perhaps a bit too much.