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German teachers set to strike over low pay

Teachers and public servants from the federal states of Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, have stepped up their campaign over inadequate pay and the need to improve their professional status, by taking the decision to strike.

Teachers have been at the forefront of protests that have been taking place across the country since the beginning of last week when the trade unions failed to reach a negotiated agreement with the employers of 600,000 public sector workers who deliver vital services in Germany’s Länder (federal states). Teachers’ union demands have played a central role in this year’s wage negotiations. The Education and Science Workers’ Union (GEW), an EI affiliate, has asked Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Government for a three per cent wage increase in addition to a flat-rate payment of €50 a month, to run for 14 months. The GEW are also calling for apprentices to be offered permanent jobs, in addition to a re-grading exercise in order for all contracted teachers to secure civil servant status, instead of being contracted as ordinary state employees, which results in reduced pension benefits. The inferior categorisation has been increasing in recent years especially within former East German states. Many teachers who trained in former East Germany are also affected by wage discrimination and the state gladly employs such teachers because they are perceived to be cheaper labour. According to the GEW, the federal states have not hired enough young teachers for many years and a real terms shortage is foreseen within the next 2-3 years, which could lead to the authorities hiring untrained teachers. GEW Vice President, Marianne Demmer, said: “We must provide teachers with a decent salary and with good working conditions if we want to attract young people to the profession and be able to guarantee a quality education for all in the future.” GEW estimates that 25,000 people will come out for rallies in Potsdam, Dresden, Schwerin and Erfurt. Protest actions are also planned in Brandenburg and Thuringia in the days ahead. A third round of negotiations between the unions and the lander will take place later this week.

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