• Unions show cross-border solidarity

    In Gräfenhausen, Germany, local solidarity with striking Georgians and Uzbeks made a difference Photo: Wolf1949H.

    In Germany, many people see strikes as a nuisance, especially when it affects them personally. A train drivers’ strike last week is a good example of the reactions this industrial action provokes in Germany. Their union is small, but its members occupy central positions in rail operations. 

    A recent poll reveals that only 40 percent of those surveyed show an understanding of the actions of the train drivers, and 44 percent for recent strikes in the public sector. Some people complain that the strikers are taking the whole society as a “hostage”. 

    But there are other, much more sympathetic reactions to strikes in Germany. 

    In April this year and for more than two months in late summer, there were strikes by truck drivers at a highway station in Gräfenhausen. At times 120 drivers, mostly from Georgia and Uzbekistan, who worked for the Polish company Mazur, but mainly drove in Germany and Austria, parked their trucks for weeks because they had not received their already meagre wages. 

    They succeeded: In the end they received the money to which they were entitled. Very few of these drivers were unionised. Nevertheless, there was a great deal of support for the strike from the trade unions: people brought food and, if needed, drove strikers to see a doctor. 

    This support probably meant that the strikers were able to endure their action for so long – and that in the end their strike was successful. This contrasts with other European countries, where the striking Mazur drives did not resist for such a long period. Even though the Gräfenhausen strike was not conventionally organised through a union structure, solidarity from unions somehow made the difference.

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