Germany: Child Care Workers Strike in Third Week

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Written by Mark Bergfeld
Photos via ver.di SuE 2015

The 240,000-strong indefinite strike of municipal pre-school educators and social workers in Germany is in its third week now. They are demanding between 10-15 per cent more pay.

More than 17,500 kindergartens which educate 1.8 million children are affected by the strike.

All official parents’ organisations support the strike. So they took their children to city hall to protest against the respective employers in a number of cities (Köln, Hamburg, Gelsenkirchen) this week. Today more than 12,000 pre-school educators demonstrated in Frankfurt and 16,000 in Hamburg.

The workforce which is 95 per cent female also demands “social recognition” for their labour. In doing so, they are opening up a public discussion on what early childhood learning should look like and indirectly putting into question the capitalist value system. How come a skilled male worker is worth more than a female educator? How come Merkel and Co. all argue about the importance of early childhood education but they aren’t remunerated appropriately?

Moreover, the strike puts Merkel’s and Schäuble’s model of the “Schwarze Null” (Black Zero) into question. The government’s goal to not take up any new loans or indebt themselves further has been achieved at a huge expense. German cities and municipalities have been bled dry. Schools are falling apart and bridges are near collapse. If they were to win, this model could come crashing down. German municipalities would have to spend an extra 1.2bn euros – and other groups of workers would be likely to follow suit.

Back in 2009, the strike lasted nine weeks. One problem is that the municipalities actually save money when the pre-school teachers and social workers are on strike so the effectiveness of the strike depends on whether parents direct their anger toward the employer or against the union. This will be the union’s litmus test in the coming weeks.

About Author

Erin Gallagher is a multimedia artist, translator and writer for Revolution News.