Strike movements of this magnitude are extremely rare in Germany. A "Mega-Streik" (mega-strike) - as it has already been dubbed by the German media - began on Monday 27 March to paralyze the entire national transport sector.

Employees of airports, rail, sea freight, motorway companies, local transport have been called since midnight (22 GMT) to 24 hours of work stoppage.

This mobilization is part of a context of growing social tensions in Germany, where strikes for wages have multiplied since the beginning of the year, from schools to hospitals, including the Post Office.

Unlike countries like France, such a unitary movement between the EVG and Ver.di unions, representing 230,000 railway employees and 2.5 million service employees respectively, is extremely rare. EVG and Ver.di expect a "broad mobilization".

This mega-strike affects a country where prices have soared for more than a year, with inflation reaching 8.7% in February. The unions are demanding more than 10% wage increases.

Employers (states, municipalities, public companies) propose a 5% increase with two single payments of €1,000 and €1,500.

A multiplication of strikes

Deutsche Bahn decided to completely suspend mainline traffic on Monday, warning that disruptions would also be very significant in the regions.

The Federation of German Airports (DAV) denounced a strategy of "escalating strikes on the model of the France", where days of mobilization follow one another against the pension reform.

"A social conflict that has no repercussions is a harmless social conflict," replied Frank Werneke, president of the Ver.di union.

The breeding ground is increasingly favorable to the social movement in Germany, which is moving away from the culture of consensus that has made its reputation. "There have been more strikes in the last ten years in Germany than in previous decades," Karl Brenke, an expert at the DIW economic institute, told AFP.

With a particularly low level of unemployment since the late 2000s, the country suffers from a lack of manpower that puts the unions "in a position of strength" in negotiations, according to Karl Brenke.

Since the mid-2010s, they have managed to impose increases, after a decade marked by the wage moderation policy of the Gerhard Schröder era, in the name of competitiveness.

In 2015, a record was recorded, with more than 2 million strike days in the year. Real wages increased systematically from 2014 to 2021, except in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The momentum was broken by inflation in 2022, with a decline of 3.1%.

Employees "are tired of being led by the nose in collective bargaining", according to Frank Werneke.

Salary increases, a lack of resources

The mobilization for wages in services has been accompanied since the beginning of the year by demonstrations.

"The price of petrol and food has gone up, my wallet has felt it," said Timo Stau, 21, who met at a demonstration on Berlin's iconic Friedrichstrasse.

After the threat of an "open-ended strike", the 160,000 employees of Deutsche Post, who negotiate separately, have already obtained an average wage increase of 11.5% at the beginning of March.

At the end of 2022, nearly 4 million German industrial workers won a wage increase of 8.5% over two years, after several weeks punctuated by work stoppages.

But the protest is broader. "It's not just a question of salary but of means," Jan Exner Konrad, 34, told AFP at a teachers' demonstration in Berlin on Thursday.

With AFP

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