Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Strike at Berlin’s Largest Hospital

This Wednesday at 8am, workers at the Charité – Berlin’s biggest hospital with over 13,000 employees – are going on strike. They are fighting against poverty wages and outsourcing. International solidarity is needed!

Nathaniel Flakin

May 16, 2017
Facebook Twitter Share

Operations will be cancelled. Transports will be delayed for hours. The toilets will get filthier by the day. Yes, a hospital is going in strike.

The Charité, Berlin’s university hospital, belongs to the city’s public sector. But the service workers aren’t employed directly by the Charité. They work for a subsidiary called the Charité Facility Management (CFM). The CFM belongs to the hospital (51%) and to a consortium of service corporations (49%).

CFM workers aren’t covered by the collective bargaining agreement for the hospital. So these workers – in cleaning, security, transport, sterilization, maintenance, catering etc. – earn poverty wages, usually just above minimum wage. In addition, their contracts are often limited to one year.

The CFM was founded in 2006 as part of a massive cuts to wages in Berlin’s public sector. In 2011, CFM workers waged a heroic, 13-week strike demanding equal pay for equal work. But the leadership of their trade union, ver.di, ended the strike in exchange for empty promises. Nothing has changed. Crucially, ver.di had sabotaged the chance to have the service workers strike together with the Charité’s nurses.

Now, the CFM workers are relaunching their struggle for the principle: One company, one workforce, one collective bargaining agreement. Just about every public company in Berlin has its own low-wage subsidiary. So there are plenty of other workers to link up with.

The workers from Berlin’s Botanical Garden have proven that outsourcing can be beaten. Previously, some workers earned 40% less than others because they were employed by a wholly-owned subsidiary (also founded in 2006). But after a number of strikes, last December management agreed to pay the entire workforce equally. Six months later came the announcement that the subsidiary would be dissolved. Of course: What good is a subsidiary if it doesn’t pay significantly lower wages?

Unfortunately, ver.di is blocking attempts to link these different struggles. For example at Vivantes, Berlin’s second biggest hospital, there is an almost identical situation with its own service subsidiary, the VSG. For years, CFM and VSG workers have been clamoring for a joint strike, to pressure both hospitals at once. But the ver.di bureaucracy has refused to organize such an action, with no explanation.

The CFM strikers are already being attacked by the bourgeois press because they are supposedly endangering the safety of patients. But the exact opposite is the case: Budget cuts and lack of personell are putting people’s lives in danger. In the last five years, at least 150 people have died from “superbugs” that spread in Berlin’s hospitals because there is not enough money for hygiene.

The party Die Linke (The Left) sometimes speaks out against outsourcing, low wages and and precarious work. But Die Linke was in the Berlin government in 2006 when the CFM was created. Now they are in government again. Their only proposal for the workers is to wait for a hospital reform in 2019. But workers in poverty don’t have the same patience as highly-paid “left-wing” government ministers.

That’s why this strike needs our solidarity. Healthcare workers in New York City
have sent their greetings to their CFM colleagues. This is a great start! Trotskyists in Berlin, organized around the digital newspaper Klasse Gegen Klasse, will be doing everything to mobilize students and workers to support the CFM. Because this is a strike in the interest of every wage earner!

Facebook Twitter Share

Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French. He is on the autism spectrum.



France: Macron Bets On His Presidency as Millions Rise Up

A historic two weeks of mobilizations against Macron’s pension reform, with several sectors going into open-ended strikes, and including a spectacular show of solidarity on International Women’s Day. Yet despite the massive turnout, the government pushed through the reform Thursday night, using an antidemocratic maneuver to bypass the National Assembly. Which direction will the movement take? Will it fizzle out in a failed top-down union strategy, or will it generalize the struggle to all sectors from the bottom up?

Antoine Ramboz

March 17, 2023
Demonstrators march during a demonstration, Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. LEWIS JOLY / AP

French Socialists on the Potential and Strategy of Working-Class Struggle

Juan Chingo and Romaric Godin discuss the working-class struggle in France, its potential, and its weaknesses, as well as the strategic problems that it faces.

Ukraine: One Year of a Reactionary War

Beyond the sloganeering from some about “freedom and democracy,” and from others about the struggle against “Ukrainian Nazism,” this war is decidedly not one of the workers and popular classes. After a year of debate in characterizing the war, French international analyst Philippe Alcoy articulates an anti-imperialist and class-independent position.

Philippe Alcoy

February 28, 2023

Biden Reasserts U.S. Dominance in NATO and Provokes Russia in Eastern European Visit

Speaking in Warsaw after his visit to Kyiv, U.S. President Joe Biden promised that the West "will not tire" in its support for Ukraine. His visit demonstrated the United States’ commitment to reasserting American leadership within NATO by further provoking Russia.

Santiago Montag

February 24, 2023


“We are your economy”: Trans Youth Walkout and Speak Out

The following is a speech by a young trans person as part of an action called for by NYC Youth for Trans Rights.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

March 20, 2023
Three tables full of food, with signs hung above them. One says "The People's Pantry: FREE FOOD." Banners hung from the tables say "Free CUNY" and "Cop Free School Zone"

CUNY Administration Cracks Down on Student and Worker-Run Food Pantry

Students and workers opened "The People's Pantry" seven weeks ago as part of a broader anti-austerity campaign at CUNY, leading to several direct confrontations with the administration.

Olivia Wood

March 19, 2023

Neither NATO Nor Putin: An Anti-war Program for an Anti-war Protest

The following is a flier that Left Voice distributed at the March 18 rally in DC with the anti-war program we believe we must all take up.

Left Voice

March 19, 2023

Temple’s Grad Worker Strike Ends with Important Victories 

The last report on the strike from a union teacher at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Jason Koslowski

March 17, 2023