Thousands of metalworkers to down tools this week

Thousands of German metalworkers will down tools for a day from Tuesday evening, as their powerful union flexes its muscles in a battle with bosses for higher pay and more generous conditions.

Thousands of metalworkers to down tools this week
Workers striking in Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein on 31st January. Photo: DPA

Union IG Metall announced 24-hour “warning strikes” by workers at more than 250 firms this week, after talks with employers over their demands for a six-percent pay rise and the option to go part-time for up to two years fell through Saturday.

Some walkouts, including at industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp and auto
supplier ZF Friedrichshafen, will begin as early as Tuesday evening.

“No one wants a big industrial dispute,” union leader Joerg Hoffmann told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper.

He said the stubbornness of management left “no way out” but strikes in the union's battle on behalf of almost four million workers.

“The business environment is fantastic, companies' earnings are extremely good, and they're making us an offer (on pay) that doesn't even make up for inflation over the 27 months it would run,” Hoffmann said.

It is the first time IG Metall has made use of the one-day strikes.

Unlike in shorter previous walkouts, workers will be compensated from union coffers for their loss of pay from the 24-hour industrial action.

And beyond the warning strikes, IG Metall also warned it is prepared for an open-ended strike across the metalworking sector — a pillar of the German economy — from next week.

Aside from pay hikes, a major sticking point in talks has been IG Metall's insistence that workers should have the option to switch to 28-hour weeks at will for up to two years, with a guarantee of returning to full-time work afterwards.

The employee representatives are also pushing for firms to top up the pay packets of workers who take that option to care for children or other dependents, or who use it to seek relief from the toughest jobs.

Bosses have insisted that such a move would be discriminatory towards workers who have gone part-time under less generous terms, and possibly even illegal.

“IG Metall's refusal (to negotiate), their ultimatum and their breaking off talks show they just want to strike for the sake of it,” Bertram Brossardt, director of Bavarian metalworking sector employers' association VBM, said in a statement.

In a separate industrial dispute, IG Metall announced workers at Volkswagen would walk out Thursday after pay and conditions talks with the world's largest carmaker stalled.

For members


How you can still get around in Germany during the train strike

From 10:00 pm Sunday until midnight on Tuesday, a 50-hour strike will bring most of Germany's train network to a standstill. But don't panic - here are some alternatives to train travel that you can still use next week.

How you can still get around in Germany during the train strike

Check your local transport connections

Many local transport authorities – including those in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main, have confirmed that busses, trams and U-Bahn trains will still be running during the strike days next week, as those workers are not members of the EVG union.

READ ALSO: What train travellers need to know about Germany’s upcoming ‘megastrike’

If in doubt, check your local public transport website or app – you might discover that you can still use local transport to get around.

Take a Flixbus

Flixbuses will be operating to their usual schedule during the strike, but it’s a good idea to book as soon as possible, as seats are expected to be in high demand.

Company spokesman Sebastian Meyer told local news site based in North Rhine-Westphalia that Flixbus will even increase its services and connections during the strike, but that, based on previous experience during strike action, he expects “a significantly increased demand for long-distance bus travel”.

Workers for the company’s train division Flixtrain also won’t be striking, but it’s possible that some routes won’t run because of “network disruptions”, Meyer said. Therefore, he recommended passengers switch to Flixbus.

Use a carpooling service

Another option is to use a carpooling service, such as  ADAC Mitfahrclub or BlaBlaCar. On these sites, drivers offer spare seats for a relatively small fee. 

You can search for the route you need to take and see if you find any drivers with matching travel plans. 

A man uses a carpooling app to look for rides from Munich to Berlin.

A man uses a carpooling app to look for rides from Munich to Berlin. Photo: pa/obs/ |

Hire a car 

There are many car rental companies that operate in Germany, including Sixt, Europcar, Hertz, Avis and Budget and they usually have branches at airports, major train stations, and city centres. You can book a car online or by calling their customer service number.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get compensation for delayed or cancelled trains in Germany

Most big cities also have several car-sharing services, such as MILES, Sharenow or Freenow.

Registering to use these apps is very straightforward and it usually takes less than a day to be approved as a driver. You just have to enter your payment and driving license details and take a photo of your driving license.

You’ll then be able to see on the app which cars are available near you and you can start driving. Pay attention to the pricing plan: some apps charge by the minute and some by the kilometre driven. 

These apps also offer the possibility to hire a car for a set number of hours or days.

If you don’t usually drive in Germany and are hiring a car just because of the strikes, remember to familiarise yourself with some of the driving rules and road signs specific to Germany before you get behind the wheel.

Take a taxi

Likely to be the most expensive option, you can always fall back on a taxi.

As well as local taxi services, there are several taxi apps in Germany, including Uber, Bolt and Freenow.

Often these apps will give you a start-up bonus, or a bonus if you invite friends who also use the app. If a few people in your friendship group have to take taxis because of the strike, you could all get a discount if you invite each other with a special link.