Germany Sees Record Number of Labor Strikes in 2023

Germany experienced a surge in industrial actions and labor disputes in 2023, with a record number of strikes recorded, according to a report released by the Institute of Economic and Social Sciences (WSI).

The report highlights that a total of 312 labor disputes were registered in Germany throughout last year, a significant increase from the 225 disputes recorded in 2022. These disputes resulted in a total of 1,527,000 working days lost due to strikes, double the amount lost in the previous year. The report cites some notable instances, including strikes lasting for 123 and 180 days.

The last time Germany witnessed such a high number of strikes was in 2015. The report further emphasizes that Germany was widely perceived as a “strike republic” last year, with the industrial disputes heavily impacting the daily lives of many citizens. Strikes in sectors such as public transportation, postal services, and among airport and railway workers were among the most prominent examples.

According to the WSI, the primary drivers behind the surge in labor disputes were high inflation and wage losses. The report underscores that the question of “how the costs of inflation are distributed between capital and labor” was at the heart of these conflicts. The WSI also notes that certain labor market changes that have placed employees in a relatively stronger position have contributed to their determination to pursue better pay and working conditions.

The WSI warns that this year is poised to be “a year of intensive labor disputes,” with a major industrial action anticipated in the nation’s metals industry, which employs approximately 4 million people nationwide, during the fall.

Germany’s economy has endured a series of significant setbacks in recent years, particularly in the wake of the European Union’s efforts to eliminate Russian energy imports as part of sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to the Ukraine conflict.

For an extended period, Germany’s esteemed industrial sector thrived on relatively inexpensive Russian gas. However, Berlin made the decision to transition to more costly alternatives sourced from other nations, including American liquefied natural gas.

In February, Marcel Fratzscher, the president of the German Institute for Economic Research, estimated that the Ukraine conflict had cost Germany more than €200 billion ($216 billion).

Germany was the sole G7 economy to experience contraction last year as it grappled with the repercussions of the energy crisis. Official data released in January revealed that the economy contracted by 0.3% year-on-year in 2023, driven by soaring inflation and elevated interest rates.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, has attributed his nation’s economic difficulties to Moscow. He asserted in April that the embargo against Russia was essential to safeguard Europe from “imperialism.”