Public sector strike in Germany ends with defeat for employers on working hours

After 14 weeks of strike action the German services union Ver.di is celebrating a positive result in its dispute with the regional government employers. The strike, the longest in the public sector for over 80 years, began in February and was in protest at the regional government employers' attempts to increase weekly working hours.

The employers gave notice of their decision to end the existing agreement on hours back in 2004. New employees were taken on with longer weekly hours, with some working 40, 41 or even 42 hours a week in some regions. The employers also imposed cuts in Christmas and holiday payments, in some cases withdrawing these payments completely.

The 800,000 employees of regional government will be covered by a new agreement from 1 November 2006 which will run until the end of 2009. Many of the conditions will be the same as the agreement covering federal and local government workers which was signed in February last year and began in October 2005.

However, there will be some longer working in regional government. On average weekly working time will range from 38.7 hours (in Schleswig-Holstein) to 39.73 (in Bavaria). Any new employees who have been appointed on longer hours will be moved to the new lower hours. The agreement also ensures that Christmas and holiday payments will continue. The agreement includes lump sum payments over the next three years and an overall pay increase of 3% in 2008.

Further details are available in German on the Ver.di website at:

EPSU organised a solidarity vigil in Brussels to coincide with the opening of negotiations on 17 May. Supported by Belgian affiliates the Secretariat arranged the vigil outside the offices of the Lower Saxony region whose Finance Minister, Hartmut Mollring, is leader of the employers' delegation in the negotiations.