Germany: Hot spring is looming!

There is a feeling of widespread anger amongst German workers.

Hot spring is looming!

This is reflected in the biggest public sector strike in fourteen years. The strike has entered its third week and is in a decisive period. The employers, the local and regional governments, are not giving an inch. A debate is necessary on what strategy to adopt in order to win this important battle. An important layer in the work places has come to the conclusion that concessions such as wage cuts and a longer working hours which were made in the past have not helped to save jobs. Official unemployment has gone beyond the 5 million mark. At the same time, those in work are supposed to work until the age of 67, according to the SPD labour minister, Franz Müntefering. A lot of workers are fed up and ready to take action.

Public sector workers employed by local governments are out on strike to defend the 38.5 hour week. According to the public sector union ver.di, 250,000 jobs are in danger if a 40 hour working week was to be introduced. Public sector workers employed by the regional state, such as university hospital workers, are fighting over wages and conditions. They need to rely on each others strength and support if they want to be successful.

Across the country, important protests and strikes are also taking place in the private sector. The strong engineering union, IG Metall is currently entering negotiations on wages and conditions.

Important battles are also taking place against job cuts and plant closures are taking place.

The strike at the AEG plant in Nuremberg is entering its fourth week. AEG Nuremberg produces washing machines and dishwashers and is threatened with relocation to Poland. The strike has gained national importance and the determination of the workers in Nuremberg has had an encouraging effect on others.

When Oskar Lafontaine, one of the leaders of the newly formed party WASG, visited the Nuremberg workers, he quite rightly said: “The owners of this company are not those who invested capital a 100 odd years ago. The owner of the company are those ho invested and put their working life into this company.” He went on to argue that “decisions on company closures must no longer be taken without a vote by the workforce. Those (votes) must be binding if the company is profitable.”

By saying this, Oskar Lafontaine struck a chord with the striking workers in Nuremberg. However at the present time Lafontaine is playing a dual role of making left speeches while also sharply attacking the left inside the WASG for opposing joint lists with the PDS as long as it remains in regional coalitions that carry out social cuts..

Important debates need to take place on what strategy to adopt in order to bring the various struggles that are taking place together. Equally important is a discussion on programme, on how to defend and create new jobs and on how to run a society that defends the interests of working people. Oskar Lafontaine also said to these workers in Nuremberg: “Your struggle is a struggle against the monstrosities of capitalism.” We say: “In order to prevent companies from closing and in order to fight for better living conditions of everyone, we do not only need to fight the effects of capitalism but capitalism itself.”

More reports on the situation in Germany will follow shortly.

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February 2006