Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 22:22:23 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Brian Hauk <>
Subject: 250,000 Protest Austerity In Germany

250,000 Protest Austerity In Germany

By Carl-Erik Isaacsson, Militant, Vol.60 no.33, 23 September 1996

STOCKHOLM, Sweden—Trade unions in Germany organized demonstrations in six cities September 7 to protest the government-proposed austerity package that is to be voted on by the lower house of the country's parliament (Bundestag) September 13. Some 250,000 workers turned out for the rallies and demonstrations.

The September 9 German newspaper Die Welt carried the news story under the headline A hot fall against the austerity package. Some facts about the labor protests were also reported in the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

According to these publications, 60,000 people demonstrated in Berlin against German chancellor Helmut Khol's austerity plan. In Stuttgart, IG-Metal chairman Claus Zwickel spoke to 50,000 protesters urging them to vote the government down in 1998. In Leipzig, East Germany, Herbert Mai, the public employee's union chairman, predicted widespread protests this fall over the proposed social cuts. Some 35,000 workers took part in demonstrations in Hamburg. Sizable actions were also held in Dortmund and Ludwigshafen.

The Munich daily Suddeutsche Zeitung commented, Noteworthy is the fact that for the second time this year, the unions have managed something they could only dream of for many previous years. They mobilized hundreds of thousands of people; 350,000 came to the June 15 protests in Bonn, 100,000 more than expected. For last Saturday the German Trade Union Federation aimed for 150,000 demonstrators, which was exceeded by 90,000... After a long crisis, the unions seem to be recovering and gaining influence.

Bundestag had approved major cuts in social programs on July 10 and 11. These included raising the retirement age, cutting sick pay and pensions, reducing unemployment benefits, postponing an increase of payments to workers with children, and making it easier for small businesses to fire workers. But on July 20, Germany's Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, rejected the austerity plan in a sign of nervousness among the German rulers over mounting labor resistance. The package was then sent to a parliamentary arbitration committee that was charged to come up with a revised proposal. The Bundesrat is elected by the country's 16 state governments and is dominated by the Social Democratic Party. Kohl's Christian Democrats have a majority in the Bundestag.