03 Mar 2023, 13:16
Benjamin Wehrmann

German service union under fire for joining climate activists’ strike

taz / DLF / Süddeutsche Zeitung

German service sector labour union Verdi has come under fire for joining the global climate strike and launching joint demands with the organisers, climate activist movement Fridays for Future (FfF). The head of employer association BDA, Steffen Kampeter, told public broadcaster DLF that the joint strike on Friday meant “crossing a line” into political activism that puts traditional labour condition strikes at risk. Verdi had called its members in the public transport industry to join the strike to exert pressure on their public sector employers for higher wages.

In an op-ed for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Nikolaus Piper argued that the entanglement of FfF’s climate ideas and Verdi’s wage increase demands poses risks for an effective transition in the transport sector. If Verdi’s call for more investment in public transport was honest, it could not prioritise a call for higher wages, he said. “It’s rather simple: if Verdi’s demands are accepted, there will be less money available for public transport expansion and not more.” City budgets for financing public transport are limited and often must choose between the two necessary investments, Piper argued.

Under the slogan “We Ride Together,” Verdi joined FfF’s strike and expanded its demands from higher wages and pursuing a more sustainable and effective transport policy to calls for more staff and affordable ticket prices. While Verdi and FfF have gone on strike together in the past, it is the first time they have combined their demands in this way and  demonstrates the climate activist group’s search for new institutional partners, according to newspaper Tageszeitung (taz). Climate researcher Brigitte Knopf from think tank MCC said that the FfF movement — while in its fourth year of existence — is in need of a new clear strategy, which could involve more social and labour policy as well as focus areas like transport policy. FfF was planning actions in 200 German cities and towns to demand tougher climate action, particularly in the transport sector.

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