German workers protest outside US bases for higher wage increase
By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 19, 2015
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Hundreds of Germans working for American and other foreign militaries protested outside bases Monday to demand a higher wage increase.
Members of the German labor union ver.di, which represents a majority of the local nationals employed by foreign militaries, held a “warning strike” calling for a flat rate increase of 120 euros per employee per month. The offer by the foreign forces would be an increase of 1.3 percent.
At Grafenwoehr, hundreds of workers were bused in from across Bavaria to join the daylong strike. Hundreds of local nationals working for the U.S. and other militaries, including Great Britain, congregated at the main gate of U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr before marching to the city hall.
Several hundred also protested outside Ramstein Air Base. Similar protests were held last week outside bases elsewhere in Germany, union organizers said.
Wolfgang Dagner, a ver.di representative, said the 120-euro flat-rate increase demanded would even out what he said was inherent inequity in wage increases based on percentages.
“The one who doesn’t earn much will always stay down at the bottom, and the ones who already have a lot will get more and more,” he said. “We want the people to be even … and therefore the 120-euro goal.”
Union officials said a 1.3 percent increase was not enough to keep up with the increase in the cost of living.
Negotiations last year resulted in a 2.4 percent wage increase for local nationals.
Robert Braun, who was protesting in Grafenwoehr, said German companies like BMW are increasing wages to match the rising cost of living in Germany, while the U.S. and other foreign militaries are not.
U.S. Army officials declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations, but Grafenwoehr spokesman Ray Johnson said the strike had a minimal impact on base operations.
“We respect the rights that our German employees have as being part of a union,” he added.
Marcus Kloeckner contributed to this report.