Labor groups stage massive 24-hr strike in Germany and Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul in Israel
Germany: Labor strike paralyzes transportation networks nationwide
Large-scale labor actions paralyzed nearly all modes of transit across Germany on March 27, as two unions organized demonstrations, strikes, and walkouts to demand significant wage increases for millions of public sector and transit workers amid rising inflation. The mobilization – coordinated by the second-largest German labor union, Verdi, as well as a union representing rail and other transportation workers – comprised the largest 24-hour walkout in Germany in more than 30 years and follows a number of smaller actions in recent weeks. Passenger and cargo flights were canceled or severely delayed on March 27 at every major airport except Berlin Brandenburg (BER), with local media reporting at least 380,000 travelers impacted. Deutsche Bahn suspended all long-distance trains and most regional services scheduled for March 27 due to the strike, with some spillover delays and cancellations reported on March 26 and 28. Local public transit services were also affected in several regions: Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, Saxony, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, and parts of Bavaria. The widespread rail network interruptions forced many residents to use personal vehicles to commute to and from work, increasing traffic delays on major roadways. Labor unions are seeking a 10.5% wage increase that would assist 2.5 million public sector workers in coping with rising inflation and costs of living. The demand for raises has been ongoing for more than a year, with many German citizens frustrated at the lack of response from Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the same time that the government has been providing funds and munitions to nearby Ukraine. Opponents of the wage increase cite the country’s “strained budget situation” and the large estimated financial burden of a significant wage increase – around EUR 4.7 billion annually – for federal and local employees. Labor strikes are relatively common in Germany, and typically end with a compromise between employers and labor unions. The current, three-day round of talks – the third round of collective bargaining for Verdi-affiliated workers – is set to conclude on March 29. Union representatives have threatened to mount open-ended, nationwide labor strikes should talks fail to lead to a resolution but have specified that any walkouts are unlikely to occur before the Easter holiday (April 9-10).
Israel: Anti-government protests subside, further unrest remains likely
Demonstrations over controversial judicial reforms have subsided after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on March 27 that the country would postpone a controversial judicial overhaul; however, further political violence and disruption remain likely in the near-to-medium term as negotiations continue. More than 200,000 participants took to the streets in the major cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on March 23, and clashes between protesters and security forces became more frequent and violent by March 25, with security forces deploying stun grenades and water cannons to control surging crowds. Protests in Tel Aviv occurred around Hashalom Station, Hambia Square, and along major thoroughfares; in Jerusalem, protests centralized around parliament and Netanyahu’s residence. Unrest escalated sharply on March 26 after Netanyahu dismissed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant – allegedly over Gallant’s criticisms of the judicial reforms. Transit disruptions were reported as protesters broke through police barricades and roadblocks leading to the Ayalon Highway, setting bonfires along Tel Aviv’s main roadway. This civil unrest occurred alongside a preplanned week of general strikes starting March 27 organized by Israel’s largest trade union, which represents nearly 800,000 workers in the healthcare, banking, and transit sectors. As part of the work stoppage, Israel’s airport authority grounded all departing flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV) stranding more than 70,000 travelers; two of Israel’s main seaports – Haifa and Ashdod – also announced closures. The union called off the strikes and the unrest abated on the evening of March 27 when Netanyahu announced that the adoption of the reforms would be delayed until the summer parliamentary session, which begins on April 30. These reforms, which have fueled protests since January, would limit the Supreme Court’s power to rule against the executive and legislative branches and give the current coalition government the power to appoint judges. Critics have argued that the changes would not only weaken Israel’s democracy by further centralizing power in the hands of the Prime Minister and his allies but also could enable Netanyahu to avoid conviction in his ongoing corruption trial. While opposition leaders have already begun negotiations with the coalition government, protesters reportedly remain committed to ensuring the judicial reforms are abandoned in their entirety. The unresolved and controversial nature of the proposed reforms, compounded by the public’s demonstrated commitment to and widespread support for protests, indicates a high likelihood of further civil unrest and strikes, particularly as the start of the next parliamentary session approaches.