Germany, united country to stand down? You could almost get that impression if you register the strike reports from the past few weeks. But is work actually being stopped more and more often? That’s what the numbers say.
Now also at airports. The Verdi union called on around 25,000 aviation security employees to stop working on Thursday. On Friday, the wheels of buses and trams in around 130 transport companies in almost all of Germany will come to a standstill – the union wants to strike on local public transport in the current collective bargaining dispute. And the multi-day strike by the German Locomotive Drivers’ Union at Deutsche Bahn, which cost a lot of people in Germany a lot of time and nerves, has just ended.
Data shows no sharp increase in strikes in Germany
Is standstill becoming more and more the norm in this country? Is a strike culture spreading? At least for the past few years, this cannot be proven by the numbers.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, a calculated 6.5 working days per 1,000 employees were lost due to labor disputes in 2022. In the previous ten years, the value was between 3.2 and 14.0 – with one exception: in 2015 there were 28.2 working days, among other things due to warning strikes by IG Metall with more than 880,000 participants, as well as at the railways and Lufthansa .
And the number of industrial disputes is also essentially at a similar level between 2012 and 2022. The Federal Agency recorded a total of 1,532 companies affected by (warning) strikes for 2022. Around 284,000 employees took part. The lowest values were in 2012 with 367 companies in which a total of around 22,000 employees stopped working. The highest number of companies on strike was in 2015 (1,618), and the number of strikers was in 2018 (682,000). No data is yet available for 2023 or the current year.
114, 117, 449 days: The longest and largest strikes in Germany
The figures cannot prove that Germany is in strike fever. But one thing is clear: strikes always get more attention when they are noticeable. After all, more people notice when buses and trains don’t run than when the production lines at an automotive supplier stand still for two days. And as the German Federation of Trade Unions puts it: “The strike was and is the means for employees to assert their interests together.” Industrial disputes have constitutional status in this country, but are subject to strict rules and conditions.
Internationally, Germany is far from being the strike world champion. In terms of lost working days, the Federal Republic ranks ninth out of 18 countries examined. Belgium is leading the way. From 2012 to 2021, our neighbors lost an average of 96 working days per 1,000 employees.