German base workers go on strike, demand 8% pay raise
April 7, 2009
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Thousands of local national base workers, who support U.S. and other foreign military operations at facilities all over Germany, are on strike demanding an 8 percent pay raise.
Wolfgang Brunner, a union representative leading negotiations for the strikers, said 3,000 to 4,000 base workers struck Monday, with another 4,000 due to strike Tuesday.
U.S. Army Europe spokesman Bruce Anderson said Monday that more than 17,000 local nationals work at U.S. military facilities in Germany.
The local base workers do everything from pump gas at on-post service stations to processing paperwork to transport U.S. personnel’s household goods in and out of country.
"Who and how many will be striking is unknown to us. It remains to be seen what, if any, impact the strike will have. Rest assured we will do everything we can to mitigate any impact from the strike," Anderson said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force in Europe said there were no significant interruptions in base operations or services at Spangdahlem or Ramstein air bases on Monday due to the strike. No protests were reported outside either base’s gates, said Maj. Cristin Marposon.
Brunner said Tuesday’s strike will hit U.S. facilities in Bamberg, Grafenwöhr, Vilseck, Schweinfurt, Ansbach, Katterbach and Illesheim. Workers are also planning to strike at Mannheim, Stuttgart, and throughout the state of North Rhein Westphalia. Strikers will walk picket lines outside all bases, he said.
"The impact on the Stuttgart garrison will be minimal. It will affect us, but not to the point where we will have to close anything down," said Larry Reilly, spokesman for the U.S. Army Garrison at Stuttgart.
Officials at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden were expecting workers with the local Wiesbaden German labor union to participate in the strike Tuesday, said Anemone Ruger, USAG Wiesbaden spokeswoman, in an e-mail response to questions Monday.
She said the strike was to be conducted off post, in downtown Wiesbaden.
While no major disruptions to services provided by the garrison were expected, Ruger said some nonessential work orders could be delayed by a day. As well, there may be some delays or rescheduling of appointments for household-goods counseling and issuing of equipment from the central issuing facility. Soldiers impacted would be contacted directly, she said.
It is not just U.S. bases that will be affected, Brunner said. All together, 23,000 to 24,000 local nationals are employed at facilities for foreign troops in Germany, including at bases for French and British troops, he said.
Karl Heinz Winter, a union representative for German workers at the military’s largest training area in Europe — U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, said Monday that the strikers are demanding an 8 percent pay hike to compensate them for a drastic increase in the cost of living in Germany.
"Gas, milk, bread … all are very expensive, not to mention the cost of health insurance," he said.
Base workers got a 3.6 percent raise a year ago, he said, adding that the U.S. military employs local nationals on 12-month contracts that are renegotiated each year.
The U.S. had offered a pay raise of 1.9 percent, he said, but added that he was confident that workers would achieve their goal.
"I think the chances are good because the workers are willing to do what is necessary to get their pay rise. Yesterday, due to the vacation time, we expected at the strike about 50 workers, but, as a matter of fact, three times as many showed up. Tomorrow [Tuesday], in Grafenwöhr, we expect at least 300 workers striking," he said.
Tuesday’s strike will begin at 4 a.m., or whenever an employee normally reports for work, he said, and will continue throughout the day.