Berlin bus drivers support Volvo strikers
Volvo Trucks workers’ strike in Virginia is gaining growing international support. Here is a solidarity address from Andy Niklaus, bus driver at Berlin Public Transportation (BVG) and member of the Safe Workplaces Transport Workers Action Committee in Berlin.
Dear colleagues from the Volvo Trucks factory in Dublin (Virginia) in New River Valley,
You are absolutely right to reject the collective agreement presented by the management of global player Volvo and the Auto Workers Union (UAW).
Through the World Socialist Website, we in the Berlin Action Committee of Transport Workers for Safe Workplaces are following your struggle, which has been simmering for months. You’re absolutely right: enough is enough!
There should no longer be any cuts in wages or bonuses. On the contrary, wages must be significantly increased after years of austerity measures. No more destruction of your health! The ten hour shifts provided for are inhumane and should not be introduced. The company must cover the costs of maintaining and restoring your health. In addition, you are entitled to a good pension. No famine pensions in old age, where social misery and illness await you!
As the owners of the automakers hand out billions to their shareholders and the union bosses pocket appalling sums of money from you for their services, they want you to foot the bill.
Here in Berlin, and all over Germany, we have the same experience. Fifteen years ago, they slashed bus driver wages by 16%, cut other benefits, and drastically increased productivity. An entire generation of newly hired drivers, as in the American auto industry, are paid significantly less pay. They only have 2,000 euros a month left to live on, working six days, up to 56 hours a week.
This system has been extended to all transport companies in Germany and Europe. Everything was and is subordinate to profit, with the help of the unions and the old workers’ parties.
The pandemic that has raged for 16 months, made worse by governments with their “collective immunity” policies, has revealed one thing: the capitalist system has no future to offer us to the workers. Millions of dead and sick, because nothing is allowed to affect profits!
More workers have lost their lives or their health from the coronavirus than the capitalists. And the social impact of the pandemic will place immense additional costs on the shoulders of the working class if the ruling class’s orgies of enrichment are not stopped soon.
Trade unions here, as in your country, have long ceased to serve the defense of our social interests. They have evolved into a corporate policy that only represents the interests of shareholders and management.
Six weeks ago, we founded our action committee. Through it, we wanted to prevent the front doors of our buses from being used again, which, although dangerous from a social distancing point of view, they are implementing in order to increase ticket sales in the buses. So far, with the help of our colleagues, we have been successful because we say that the drivers themselves have the right to decide about their health. Our confidence in us has grown. Even under current conditions, there is a risk of contagion as aerosols can spread in the vehicle, just like in your factories. With the opening of the main entrance it would be even more dangerous for us as drivers.
The union did not help us and does not help us. He’s sticking to his line of business that profits must continue – and with it public transit that takes workers to factories and their children to their schools. It is “part of the risk of life of contracting the coronavirus at work,” the union Verdi wrote here in Germany.
Our action committee will continue to educate our colleagues politically and mobilize workers independently of unions, as currently in the case of fired London bus driver Dave O’Sullivan. Because he defended the lives of his colleagues and their families, he was fired with the help of the Unite union. Thanks to the WSWS, we have learned about it and are spreading it around the world. Workers around the world only learned of your struggle and ours from the WSWS.
We will continue to develop this work. We will use the “International Alliance of Workers’ Action Committees”, initiated by the WSWS on May 1, 2021 to share our experiences and coordinate our struggles around the world.
Stay strong in your fight. We are on your side!