29.06.2022, Berlin: Teilnehmer der Demonstration der Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW) tragen ein Plakat mit der Aufschrift «unterrichten statt untergehen!». Die GEW fordert kleine Schulklassen zur Entlastung der Lehrer und Verbesserung der Lehrqualität. Foto: Christophe Gateau/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

For many Berlin students, the usual classes on Wednesday have been cancelled. According to the Education and Science Union (GEW), around 2,500 teachers and school employees first demonstrated in the morning on Dorothea-Schlegel-Platz near the Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station. Barely a week before the start of the summer holidays, the GEW called for another all-day warning strike.

They called for smaller classes to relieve the teachers. They also want to push through a collective agreement on health protection that regulates the class size in a binding manner. The demonstrators then moved to the Red Town Hall. The GEW had called for the all-day warning strike.

“We have a shortage of teachers, we have a shortage of space and the only possible solution that the Senate seems to be able to find here is for the classes to be even larger. We want to get out of there,” said the chairman of the GEW state association, Tom Erdmann, to the rbb’s radioeins station. The Senate must finally enter into collective bargaining with the GEW.

GEW board member Udo Mertens added that only a collective agreement would guarantee that something would finally be done on the subject. “The political leaders want to continue to determine what our working conditions look like based on the cash situation.”

As early as June last year, GEW Berlin spoke out in favor of negotiations for a collective agreement on health protection. Erdmann criticized the new finance senator Daniel Wesener (Greens) for refusing to start talks.

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In a letter to the GEW shortly before the warning strike, Wesener once again explained his position that the state of Berlin could not begin collective bargaining on class size without the approval of the collective bargaining community of German states. However, they reject such collective bargaining.

Wesener takes the view that the state of Berlin cannot enter into collective bargaining on the size of classes without the approval of the collective bargaining community of German states (TdL). However, the TdL general meeting rejects such collective bargaining. He made his position clear again in a letter to the union on the occasion of the warning strike.

According to GEW, a survey of employed teachers at Berlin schools showed that class size was the most effective factor in reducing workload. It means less noise, less preparation and follow-up work and less correction work. In smaller classes there is more time for the core tasks of teachers: teaching, relationship work and individualized support.

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However, the need for teachers would increase with smaller classes – and is already high in Berlin. Even the education administration has already admitted that hundreds of teachers are missing. “Better working conditions are the best remedy against a shortage of skilled workers,” argued GEW board member Anne Albers.

The last warning strike for smaller classes was on April 7th this year. At that time there had been sharp criticism from school management and the state student committee, among others, because some schools were holding presentation exams for the Abitur on that day.

At least there are no exams on today, June 29th. The summer holidays will start in a week, and all the work relevant to grades has already been completed at the schools. Most of the time, however, more trips, project weeks or other social activities take place during this time.