In January, 197,454 Berlin residents were infected with the highly contagious variant of Omicron. This total includes 62,194 children and young people and around 2,000 teachers, as well as many employees of the city’s transport company, BVG.
Growing numbers of workers are being affected, rendering them unable to work as new coronavirus patients are admitted to Berlin hospitals daily. The warning light for hospitalizations is already red.
Transport in the city has been hit hard by the understaffing in the public transport system (ÖPNV), with service cuts at all levels.
The only effective measure against these mass infections is total containment for a few weeks with local transport operating on an emergency basis. To eliminate the virus and protect the population, only essential workers, sick people and medical personnel should have access to transport. It is the only possible alternative to protect health and life, but this solution has been categorically rejected.
In contrast, Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) announced that “infected people without symptoms should continue to work in exceptional cases”. Contact tracing and contact quarantine have already been scrapped, with PCR testing given priority, although testing labs are unable to meet demand. The Berlin state administration, a coalition of the Social Democratic Party, the Left Party and the Greens, is brutally continuing the policy of mass contamination put forward by the federal government, a coalition of the SPD, the Greens and the Liberal Party neoliberal democrat.
The pandemic measures authorized by the LPP executive are totally insufficient! They correspond to the guidelines issued by Berlin Health Senator Ulrike Gote (Greens), which perpetuate the lie that vaccination and wearing a mask are enough to fight the virus. The considerable dangers of an Omicron infection are systematically minimized.
BVG management, the company’s joint works council and the bureaucrats of the civil service workers’ union, Verdi, do not care about saving lives. Their priority is to ensure profitability and their own income. As for the state government and the municipal employers’ association, their main concern is that transport workers continue to transport workers to their places of work, and the more than 330,000 children and young people, most of them not vaccinated, to the city’s coronavirus-infested schools.
The coronavirus not only attacks individuals, but all of society. Including unreported cases, at least 15 million people worldwide have already died from the virus. We in the Action Committee predicted this danger as early as 2020 at the start of the pandemic, because we relied on the warnings of scientists. We had already warned in February 2020 that the type of work we do makes us vulnerable to infections.
Then, as now, the OAG’s claim that there were no chains of infection within the workforce is not credible. For 2020/2021, he announced 782 infections, as well as the deaths of two BVG employees, but since then the executive and Verdi have remained silent on the rate of illness in the working population.
the Berliner Zeitung quoted Verdi’s secretary, Jeremy Arndt, who said: “The situation is tense”, while the Tagesspiegel reported a 50% increase in sick leave two weeks ago. According to the media rbb24, one in 20 public transport services has been canceled in Berlin.
The workforce, however, the people involved, are kept in the dark! When the WSWS asked the OAG press office for information, the latter replied: “We do not publish disease figures, especially since they are subject to fluctuations.
The BVG installed protective screens on buses last summer, but they do not effectively protect drivers from the virus-laden air on buses! The screens and the favorable study that the BVG received from the city’s Charité hospital on the effectiveness of the “anti-spitting screen” (which is still hidden from the public) are only intended to justify the reopening of the front doors of buses and the sale of tickets by the driver.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Verdi has ignored our concerns and hampered our fight for infection control in the driver’s workplace. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the union announced that it had to be accepted that there was a “general risk of infection”, that is to say including in the workplace. From the start, the union sought to justify our exposure to the virus. Our opposition to the official policy of contagion is clearly a thorn in Verdi’s side.
We all know what a collective effort it took at the time to impose even the most minimal protective measures: adhesive tapes to delimit the row of seats behind the driver’s seat, as well as the closing of the entrance doors and the associated suspension of ticket sales by bus drivers. .
We then escalated our protest against the company’s irresponsible policy, especially regarding the reopening of the front doors. We have formed an action committee to expand our struggle independently of the union and the works council. Only then did Verdi’s representatives change their position and reluctantly stage a hypocritical demonstration.
The Action Committee warned at the time: “Verdi’s current protest action cannot hide the fact that union officials are fully on the side of management. This warning has been fully confirmed.
We remain in conflict with the supervisory board and management, the Berlin Senate and the internal union, Verdi. They haven’t said a single word about the danger we face amidst the wave of Omicron infection! Instead, last fall Verdi quietly agreed to a new contract with the BVG executive and the municipal employers’ association. When inflation is taken into account, the contract amounts to a pay cut and contains no real improvement in working conditions.
We can change that. We are not alone. Tens of thousands of workers here in Berlin and elsewhere seek to end this endless spiral of contagion and poverty. As public transport workers, we are not only among the hardest hit by the politics of contagion, our resistance is also of the utmost importance to end it and mobilize the entire working class.
• Immediate containment as part of an international strategy to eliminate the virus, with public transport reduced to emergency services as soon as possible! Special buses must be equipped with properly protected personnel, special equipment and disinfection measures!
• FFP2 masks must be mandatory in all workplaces and for bus drivers. The front doors must be closed with the suspension of ticket sales by the driver, and the first row of seats behind the driver cordoned off until the conversion to emergency operations is complete!
• Full salary for all workers and teachers, no penalties for work stoppage!
• Free PCR test for all suspected infections and immediate quarantine with full pay until the PCR test certifies a negative result! The best medical care to be made available for Long Covid cases!
• Weekly disclosure of infection figures to staff and action committee, broken down into Corona and other infections!
Brothers and sisters, we must intensify our fight against infections and for better working conditions. We know of two colleagues we lost during the second wave of the pandemic. The probability that there are more is very high, but there must be no more victims!
We are not alone. In Europe, including the UK, and across the world, resistance to pandemic policies and their effects is growing. The recent bus drivers’ strike in Romania, where unions – like ours – have tried to defuse workers’ demands by reaching an agreement with municipal authorities and management, underlines that the fight requires a complete break with the unions and their reactionary policy of “social partnership”. .”
Join our action committee for safe workplaces!