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, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.



Thousands of Police Deployed to Shut Down Congress on Palestine in Berlin

This weekend, a Palestine Congress was supposed to take place in the German capital. But 2,500 police were mobilized and shut down the event before the first speech could be held. Multiple Jewish comrades were arrested.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 12, 2024

Fired by a German University for Solidarity with Palestine — Interview with Nancy Fraser

The University of Cologne canceled a guest professorship with the philosophy professor from The New School. In this interview, she speaks about Germany dividing between "Good Jews" and "Bad Jews," her politicization in the civil rights movement, and her time in an Israeli kibbutz.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 10, 2024

Pro-Palestine Activists in France Get Summons from Anti-Terrorist Police

As part of a repressive campaign against the movement for Palestine in France activists have gotten summons from “anti-terrorist” police. The movement for Palestine in the United States must oppose all repression of our movement here and in Europe.

Samuel Karlin

April 9, 2024

Berlin’s Mayor Loves Antisemites

Kai Wegner denounces the “antisemitism” of left-wing Jews — while he embraces the most high-profile antisemitic conspiracy theorist in the world.

Nathaniel Flakin

March 22, 2024


The Movement for Palestine Is Facing Repression. We Need a Campaign to Stop It.

In recent weeks, the movement in solidarity with Palestine has faced a new round of repression across the U.S. We need a united campaign to combat this repression, one that raises strategic debates about the movement’s next steps.

Tristan Taylor

April 17, 2024

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson Has No Place at Labor Notes

The Labor Notes Conference will have record attendance this year, but it’s showing its limits by opening with a speech from Chicago’s pro-cop Democratic mayor, Brandon Johnson. Instead of facilitating the Democratic Party’s co-optation of our movement, Labor Notes should be a space for workers and socialists to gather and fight for a class-independent alternative.

Emma Lee

April 16, 2024

U.S. Imperialism is Pushing Tensions in the Middle East to a Boiling Point

U.S. Imperialism's support for Israel is driving the tensions behind Iran's attack and the escalations in the Middle East. It is all the more urgent for the working class to unite with the movement for Palestine against imperialism and chart a way out of the crisis in the region.

Samuel Karlin

April 15, 2024

Liberal Towns in New Jersey Are Increasing Attacks on Pro-Palestine Activists

A group of neighbors in South Orange and Maplewood have become a reference point for pro-Palestine organizing in New Jersey suburbs. Now these liberal towns are upping repression against the local activists.

Samuel Karlin

April 12, 2024