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Transportation employees unite with environmental advocates for a week of protests throughout Germany in response to climate change.
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Transportation employees unite with environmental advocates for a week of protests throughout Germany in response to climate change.

Transport employees throughout Germany are teaming up with environmental advocates for a series of strikes, culminating in a coordinated nationwide walkout and climate demonstration on Friday.

Verdi, a major trade union in Europe, is teaming up with Fridays for Future, a youth-led movement, in an uncommon but mutually beneficial partnership. Both organizations recognize their shared objectives and believe that addressing the climate crisis requires increased funding for public transportation.

In the past, there has been a conflict between transport workers and Fridays for Future.

The new alliance, with the motto #WirFahrenZusammen, aims to rally public support for their objectives. A recent strike by train drivers, which lasted for multiple days and resulted in an estimated €1 billion loss for the economy, received significant support from the community.

Protests will take place in all German states except Bavaria, involving 90,000 workers from 130 municipal transport organizations. The main demands include improved working conditions, increased pay, and an investment of €100 billion by 2030 to double current capacity. The organizers are calling for a “social justice transport transformation” and highlight the importance of political will and funding for sustainable transport.

Verdi’s representative for bus and train workers, Andreas Schackert, stated that a shortage of workers is causing certain local transportation services to be at risk of failing. This could also have a negative impact on Germany’s efforts to decrease its carbon emissions.

He stated that utilizing public transportation is a crucial tool in addressing climate change.

The German transport companies’ association states that an extra 110,000 employees will be required in the public transportation industry within the next six years due to a persistent shortage of staff. The existing workers have reported experiencing high levels of stress and burnout.

In urban areas like Berlin, there has been a recent reduction in services due to a shortage of drivers.

Darya Sotoodeh, a member of Fridays for Future Germany, stated that improving working conditions and wages is necessary to address this issue. She also emphasized the importance of expanding public transportation in reducing emissions, especially in local public transport.

According to her, transport companies are attempting to maintain low wages for workers instead of striving for improvements. This is problematic because it is crucial for job opportunities in the sector to become more appealing.

Founded by Greta Thunberg in 2018, Fridays for Future has faced challenges in maintaining its momentum due to the pandemic. The “strike” protests held every Friday were halted, but the organization is now focusing on aligning with socially significant issues in order to regain its significance.

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Schackert has refuted claims that Verdi is attempting to politicize the strike by teaming up with climate activists. “The strikes are not a form of political protest. Our objectives are to reduce working hours, provide support for those on rotating shifts, and increase vacation benefits,” he stated. The demand for higher wages applies to employees in four states.

Last year, the two organizations organized strikes that intentionally occurred simultaneously. However, this is the first instance of them officially collaborating on a joint action.

Matthias Kureck, a Berlin bus driver for the last 16 years, initially had doubts about joining the strikes. However, he has since become a proud climate activist after realizing the shared objectives of the groups.

“At first glance, bus drivers and climate activists may not appear to be allies. However, despite being pitted against one another, we share many common goals,” he stated. “Proper funding for public transportation is crucial in achieving our climate objectives and improving working conditions. Together, we are a formidable force…and I am now proud to consider myself a climate activist.”

Source: theguardian.com