Germany: Education trade unions reach successful collective agreement


On May 18 education trade unions in Germany engaged in extensive negotiations to fight for adequate pay and support of workers in the early childhood education sector. Building on previous strikes by employees, the negotiations were successful and resulted in a collective agreement which enhances financial compensation and provides increased room for relief and regeneration from work.

 "With the collective agreement of 18 May and following 2009 and 2015, the trade unions have taken further important steps towards upgrading social and educational professions. Monthly bonuses and shorter step durations will yield a better remuneration. Work-free days will provide relief in terms of time. Without the employees’ impressive strikes, this collective agreement could not have been reached. They broke the municipal employers’ blockade. Further steps must follow," said Maike Finnern, President of the German Education and Science Union GEW.

These successes greatly contribute to improving the working conditions and well-being of early childhood educators and social workers. Yet much more needs to be done in order to substantially address the challenges workers in the early childhood education sector face. This starts with adequate pay that fully respects the efforts of workers but also includes thorough occupational health and safety measures. One of the biggest threats to health is high workload, which most commonly results from the drastic understaffing present throughout the early childhood education sector. These unsustainable burdens frequently result in musculoskeletal disorders or mental health issues.

On this topic Udo Beckmann, President of the German “Verband Bildung und Erziehung” (VBE) commented: “With regard to health and preventive health measures there is a sizable demand among employees, but the access to adequate offers is negligibly small. The fact that employees in municipal institutions now receive up to four relief days each year is a step in the right direction. This must be paired with further sustainable measures for occupational health and safety”.