Germany: Solidarity with our Transport Worker Comrades

Image - Demonstration of BVG workers and sympathisers

Striking is the Only Language the Bosses Understand!

We translate below a leaflet produced by the GIS (Gruppe Internationalister SozialistInnen), a group in Germany with which we have fraternal relations. It concerns a strike on the BVG (Berliner Verkehrsgesellschaft, which runs local transport in Berlin). In Germany, as elsewhere, the bosses use all sorts of tactics to push down wages and worsen conditions, and the unions help, rather than hinder, them in this. In this particular instance, the KAV (Kommunale Arbeitgeberverband - Municipal Employers’ Organisation) and the Senate of the City of Berlin are trying to split the workers by treating new workers differently to long term ones. The union involved, ver.di (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft - United Service Union, with 2.3 million members, “one of the largest independent unions in the world”, according to its website), has helped the employers get their way in the past, and is now trying to “organise” the workers to defeat.

Our BVG comrades’ 39-hour warning strike was a first important step in declaring war on further wage cuts. The so-called “negotiation offer” of the (KAV) was correctly seen by the employees as pure provocation. The KAV and Senate’s socalled “concession” envisaged a wage freeze for almost 10 000 colleagues of the core workforce and a progressive wage increase of a scant 6% for those newly employed in 2005. It is nothing other than an attempt to push through further wage cuts and to split the BVG workers.

Enough is Enough!

As in other spheres of the public services, working conditions in the BVG have drastically worsened over the last few years. Wages have been cut and jobs lost and workers have been “outsourced” to the company specifically formed for this purpose, Berlintransport - under worse conditions, it goes without saying. In this way, the first wedge was driven between the workers. The wage contract for local transport, signed in 2005 caused the BVG comrades to lose up to 12% of their wages.

Simultaneously, payments for Christmas working and annual holidays were reduced and their workload increased through new times for rest and change-overs, and by savings on bus lines. All these measures were nodded through in agreement with management by ver.di wearing its “social partner” hat.

Ver.di’s Wheeling and Dealing - a Bad Noise!

Now, too, the ver.di functionaries are staggering around. Their usual fuss about “workable solutions in negotiations” and/or the necessity to “blunt the sharpening conflict as quickly as possible” shows that a rotten compromise is pre-programmed, if there is no success in developing self-initiative against the union apparatus. The present soft strike strategy adopted by ver.di serves primarily as a safety valve. It is in no way suitable for building up pressure on the Senate and the KAV. The latter has left no doubt that it wants to push through more cuts in the BVG. If they cannot be stood up to, then a further wave of attacks on employees will open up - in the BVG and also elsewhere!

Against All Splits: Together Against the Bosses’ Cuts!

An indefinite strike in the BVG would be an important first step out of the present defensive attitude. Linked with the presently existing wage struggles in other areas of public services, it would set up an enormous dynamic in the present confrontations. The spiral of continual increases in ticket prices on the one hand, and wage cuts on the other, which is devastating for all workers, can only be broken by common solidarity action. The splits which our rulers want and are pushing for must be clearly rejected. Therefore we consider the demand in the present confrontation for a free public local transport in the interest of the entire wage-working population to be central. It would be an important lever to generalise the conflict in the BVG to other spheres (and parts of the city), to show a rejection of capitalism’s logic of profit and to erect a wider perspective: the common struggle for a different, a socialist world! For a World without States and Classes!

Gruppe Internationaler SozialistInnen (1)

(1) The Gruppe Internationaler SozialistInnen publish Sozialismus oder Barbarei, and can be contacted at GIS c/o Rotes Antiquariat - Rungestraße 20 - 10179 Berlin Germany or via .

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