A deal has been reached after almost three weeks of strikes by public sector workers in Hamburg, northern Germany. The strikes, part of a series of regional actions by the Verdi public sector union, opposed increases in the working week.
The deal will put pressure on other groups of workers to settle their disputes. However, Verdi leaders spoke of widening the action to other regions.
Stefan Bornost is the editor of Linksruck, Socialist Workers’ sister paper in Germany. He said, “The Hamburg deal will mean a differentiation of conditions, with better off workers doing a 40 hour week, and the older and less well paid working less than 40 hours.
“Workers feel that it was right to fight – in other areas, such as the car industry, the 40 hour week has been introduced across the board. But it is a painful deal, which will mean longer hours and division in the workforce.”
The Hamburg strike was called off after a 42 percent vote to accept the deal. Under labour laws in Germany, 75 percent of union members have to vote to start a strike, but only 25 percent have to vote to accept a deal.
According to Stefan, unions in Germany have grown used to fighting over isolated attacks, rather than over the kind of generalised neo-liberal attack of which the threatened increase in hours was part. While there has been solidarity from the unions, mobilised through networks of rank and file members, this hasn’t yet been matched at the top of the movement.