Germany saw record number of industrial disputes in 2023, study shows By Reuters

(Reuters) – The number of working days lost to strikes in Germany doubled in 2023 compared with the previous year to more than 1.5 million, with a record 312 industrial disputes, a study showed on Thursday.

High inflation and the consequent loss of purchasing power were the main drivers, said the study by the Institute of economic and social sciences (WSI), which has tracked the number of industrial disputes since 2006.

The study underscores how a cost-of-living crisis and an inflation spike after the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked a wave of industrial action in Europe’s largest economy and tested its prized model for worker relations.

“2024 is also likely to be a year of intensive industrial disputes,” the WSI said, adding that the figure could depend on the outcome of union talks in the metal and electrical industries in the autumn.

The 1.52 million working days lost last year was the highest since 2015 and an increase of 126% on 2022 levels.

A wave of strikes at the start of the year hit railways, local transport, airports and the Lufthansa airline, and coincided with farmers’ protests and a budget crisis that put Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government on the back foot.

However, the WSI said the public perception of Germany as a strike-prone nation was mainly because many strikes, such as those that brought 11 German airports to a standstill in February, disrupted people’s everyday lives.

According to WSI, Belgium has seen the most days lost per 1,000 employees due to industrial action with an average of 103 days between 2013 and 2022, followed by France and Finland with 92 and 90 days respectively.

Germany ranks 8th, behind Britain but ahead of countries such as Switzerland and Sweden, where industrial action is near to zero, the study said.

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