German Language Blog

Teachers in Berlin and Saxony strike for better payment Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Culture

When I arrived at the train station Berlin Friedrichstraße last week, many people – draped in huge “trash bags” – crossed my path. The words Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Bildung (GEW) (lit. labor union for upbringing and education) were printed on these trash bags. School and kindergarten teachers were striking.

The German education system is often highly praised. Some find it innovative that there are different school types in Germany, which gear to students’ learning aptitude and future schooling. So-called Realschulen focus on students who target a plain secondary school certificate, which enables them to commence any particular job training. The common German term for such a job training is Lehre (apprenticeship), which means that the apprentice or trainee has to attend school and workplace in turns for three years. In school theoretical knowledge is taught and in companies the trainees gain practical experience. Typical Lehrberufe (teaching professions) are handwerkliche Berufe (skilled trades), such as Friseur (hairdresser), Maler (painter), Koch (cook), Bäcker (baker), Automechaniker (car mechanic), Elektriker (electrician), Fußbodenleger (floor layer), but also “more intellectual” professions, such as Bankkaufmann or Bankkauffrau (bank clerk),  Buchhalter/in (accountant), Krankenschwester (nurse), and so on. A Realschule is a junior high school for ages either 10 or 12 to 16. The age of entry depends on the federal state of German in which a student lives. In some states, the entry age is 10 and in others it is 12.

Regardless of the positive criticism, teachers from Berlin and Sachsen (Saxony) are dissatisfied with their situation. The federal states Berlin and Sachsen do not appoint teachers as tenured German civil servants anymore. This involves several disadvantages. First, teachers who have not the status of a civil servant earn less money (about 500 Euros) than teachers who have the status of civil servant. Second, non-civil servant teachers do not benefit from cheaper private health insurance. Third, non-civil servant teachers are not warranted that they will have lifelong employment. Fourth, non-civil servant teachers will have to pay Sozialabgaben (social security contributions), whereas civil servant teachers have not to. For example, teacher who are appointed as tenured civil servants do not have to pay pension contributions, but will receive high pensions themselves.

Berlin and Saxon teachers do not strike for the right of the status of civil servant, but they strike for equal payment according to the motto: Gleicher Lohn für gleiche Arbeit! (Equal wage for equal work!)


Video: Teachers strike in Berlin


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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. EP:

    I think the Berlin government is doing the right thing by not hiring tenured German civil servants anymore. When the money is gone, it’s gone (and it’s certainly gone in Berlin). The problem is, many of these potential Berlin teachers then go to other federal states to become tenured German civil servants there and either remain there or come back to Berlin and still keep that status. Until everybody is on the same sheet of music, that’s really going to be a problem. But nobody in Germany seriously expects that the powerful civil servants will ever budge – some say they are the ones who actually run the country.

  2. AnWulf:

    The “pay” would work better in the title … German teachers strike for better pay. One makes a payment on their car note.