LearnGermanwith Us!Start Learning!
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!)