GA English on Sunday News in Brief for the Weekend

Bonn · Verdi calls for further warning strikes in public transport in NRW on Tuesday and Wednesday; Honking horns and angry outbursts at climate protest; and frozen spinach is being recalled throughout Germany. Our news in brief for this Sunday.

Trade union Verdi calls for further warning strikes in public transport.

Trade union Verdi calls for further warning strikes in public transport.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

Public transport to go on strike on Tuesday and Wednesday

On Tuesday and Wednesday next week, millions of public transport passengers in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) will again have to cope with considerable restrictions on tram, underground and bus services. The trade union Verdi announced on Friday that it was calling for a two-day warning strike by employees of around 30 municipal transport companies. Almost all major public transport companies including KVB (Cologne), Rheinbahn (Düsseldorf), DSW21 (Dortmund) and Stadtwerke Münster will again be on strike. Stadtwerke Bonn (SWB) will also be affected.

The background is collective bargaining over the working conditions of some 30,000 employees in municipal transport companies. Two rounds of collective bargaining have been unsuccessful. According to Verdi, the positions of the negotiating parties are far apart, and Verdi negotiator Heinz Rech has again accused the employers of not yet having made an offer. "We want to create so much pressure that they realise that we can get even tougher and that we should solve this at the negotiating table". When asked about public support, department head Andrea Becker said: "We know that there is understanding and of course that it's annoying". In calling for better working conditions, she also referred to the high sickness rate, the lack of skilled workers and the need for more investments.

So far this year, Verdi NRW has called two one-day warning strikes, one in early and on in mid-February, as well as a two-day warning strike in around 30 municipal transport companies. The stoppages had serious consequences. Overground and underground trams remained in their depots. In many places, only a few buses operated by private companies ran in the areas affected by the strike.

Verdi had launched a wave of token strikes in public transport across almost the whole country this week, with the main strike day on Friday. Together with Fridays for the Future, Verdi wants to send a signal to demand more money for public transport.

On Thursday and Friday, almost all major public transport companies went on strike. Exceptions were the Aachen transport company Aseag, which is covered by a house tarrif, as well as a few other local transport companies.

Verdi is demanding, among other things, additional days off to reduce the workload and make jobs more attractive. Buses and trains were not running every day in all areas covered by the collective agreement due to a lack of staff. In the wage dispute at state level, the employers' association KAV NRW pointed out that there was little financial room for manoeuvre. In addition, salaries had risen significantly as of 1 March, as had been agreed some time ago. Given the shortage of drivers, any further days off would lead to an increased workload for the remaining drivers. The employers' association recently expressed optimism that it would be able to agree an overall package with the union in the third round of collective bargaining.

Original text: dpa

Translation: Jean Lennox

Honking horns and angry outbursts at climate protest

At midday on Saturday, three lanes of traffic on Reuterstrasse were busy at the corner of Schumannstrasse. At first, the traffic flowed freely in the direction of Poppelsdorf, then the traffic lights turned red and a group of demonstrators with placards stepped onto the road. One of the banners read "Turn around now". As an 'Extinction Rebellion' loudspeaker stressed the urgency of the climate crisis and for a traffic turnaround, the first drivers began to honk their horns. Others just watched and were handed leaflets by passing demonstrators.

During the so-called 'swarming', the road was blocked at intervals of about four minutes, but after a short time the first driver had had enough and got out of his car. He demanded loudly to the police officers present that they remove the demonstrators from the road or he would do it himself. The officers explained that this was a legal, registered demonstration and ordered him back to his car. They had to repeat this several times to angry drivers, while others just repeatedly honked their horns.

The demonstrators know they are polarising people. "It is an act of civil disobedience that brings a disruptive factor into everyday life and hopefully makes people think," said engineer Viktor Kemmet. This was not the first time he had taken part in an Extinction Rebellion demonstration. For him, it's about showing how bad the climate situation already is and that there's still time to act. He wants "as many people as possible to just talk about it at home with family and friends." He wants it to become part of everyday consciousness. The temporary traffic jam during the protest is obviously not nice for motorists who are currently suffering from the complete closure of the A565 motorway, "but the climate can't wait either," he said. They received both support and insults and threats of violence from motorists. "That happens, it's not nice," says Kemmet.

As he handed out flyers to the waiting drivers, Bonn artist Dirk Steinbrenner also experienced different reactions. One woman had already threatened to report him, while a man "said he would beat me up if he got out of his car." They have had productive conversations with other drivers about their actions. But when it comes to direct contact with drivers, he is always worried "that someone will really lose it." And yet he chooses to keep coming back "to make people aware of the climate catastrophe". It wasn't a total blockade either, as the group deliberately chose not to block the nearby trams 62 and 61, as member Elmar Keul explains. And when an ambulance and an emergency doctor sounded their sirens, they immediately cleared the road to let the emergency services through.

Supermarket REWE recalls frozen spinach

Frozen food producer Ardo is recalling spinach nationwide due to possible metal filings in the vegetable. A health risk cannot be ruled out with absolute certainty, the company's office in Ratingen said on Saturday. The product in question is "REWE Beste Wahl, Junger Spinat Gehackt" in a 450 gram package. The affected packs have the EAN number 433725605169 and a sell-by date of January 2026. Consumers are strongly advised not to eat the spinach.

Shoppers can return the frozen spinach to supermarkets without a receipt. The purchase price will be refunded. (dpa)

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