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Germany: ECE teachers strike for equitable wages

Around 250,000 early childhood educators in Germany have been called on by their trade unions to go on a nationwide strike today as negotiations with municipalities on a pay agreement continue.

 

The pay agreement recently reached with the Bundesländer (States) does not apply to early childhood education (ECE) workers, who are predominantly employed by the municipalities.

The public sector unions, among them the Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), affiliated to Education International, and the German trade union confederation, Ver.di, have been negotiating with the umbrella organisation of municipal employers to have their members placed on a higher pay scale.

Pay gap between colleagues

“As in many countries, ECE workers, whose jobs are some of the most skilled in education, are on considerably lower pay than their colleagues teaching older children,” explained the GEW Officer for International Affairs, Manfred Brinkmann. “These educators further say that more and more is being asked from them, with no corresponding increase in pay.”

Warning strikes have been conducted in several German states, including Bavaria, Hamburg and Lower Saxony, with hundreds of kindergartens closed over the last three weeks.

Rallies were held in many cities, including one of several hundred people on 9 April in Düsseldorf, where talks were taking place. As a result of the failure of negotiations, unions have embarked on another series of strikes, with kindergartens closed in many towns, including Bonn and Berlin.

The intention is to continue these collective actions for the duration of the negotiations. Union leaders warned that they will call for an indefinite strike if the new talks scheduled for 16 April are unsuccessful. The last time ECE workers went on strike was in 2009, an action which lasted for 12 weeks.

Satisfactory pay negotiations

In the fourth round of pay negotiations however, the German public sector unions, among them the GEW, reached an agreement with the States  – as employers of 900,000 employees, among them 200,000 teachers – on future salary increases: of 2.1 percent beginning in March 2015, and another 2.3 percent, minimum €75 per month, from March 2016.

The most controversial question had been the employers’ demand to cut pensions, a demand successfully overruled by the unions: the annual pension entitlement in the existing defined benefit system will remain unchanged for at least the next ten years, in return for a rise in the employee contributions to the pension systems.

The second main issue in the negotiations had been the GEW demand for a collective agreement with the Bundesländer on the pay scale grouping of the teachers without civil service status, in order to narrow the huge gap in net income between civil service status teachers and other teachers.

The GEW refused to sign an agreement with the employers which would have brought no financial improvement to its members, but would have forbidden further collective action for at least four years.

More information (in German) can be found here: www.gew-tarifrunde.de

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