On Wednesday, two dozen workers left hunger strike at the WISAG service company. They are battling layoffs, theft of wages and insecurity due to the coronavirus WISAG fired 230 workers in December, including 31 airport bus drivers who have not been paid since October.
That Hessenschau, that Frankfurter Rundschau, Frankfurter Neue Presse (FNP) and other local and national media know about the hunger strike, but most of them refrained from reporting on the dispute. This can only be understood as a deliberate act of prostration to WISAG, because the bourgeois press chooses not to offend the powerful companies.
The owner of WISAG, Claus Wisser and his son Michael, are among the 300 richest families in Germany. They are very well connected and maintain relationships with Frankfurt mayor Peter Feldmann (Social Democratic Party, SPD), Minister of Economy and Transport for the state of Hesse Tarek Al-Wazir (Green), management of Fraport AG which operates Frankfurt airport and Verdi service union.
But there is another reason for the media blackout: The WISAG workers’ hunger strike is an expression of the growing anger and desire for war that is spreading among more workers. In many companies, employers are using the pandemic to encourage layoffs and massive attacks on wages and working conditions. A social storm is building beneath the surface of society. The ruling class fears that hunger strikes and similar acts of struggle will act like sparks to ignite social outbursts and seek to silence it.
That World Socialist Website against this media blackout. It gives a voice to struggling workers and organizes all possible forms of support and solidarity. It illustrates how workers’ resistance is developing in many countries and explains why an international strategy and socialist perspective is needed in the struggle against capitalist exploitation.
“Just because we defended our rights, we didn’t get paid for 4 months !!!” written on the apron (asphalt) sign of the bus driver Terzi. He told WSWS how this happened: “In mid-September, we were told that our department at WISAG would be closed and all drivers would have to move to a company called Sky City Bus GmbH. This company has only been around since March 2020, but I’ve been working on airport aprons for 21 years. “
As workers explain, WISAG is known for continually attracting new subsidiaries, subcontractors and service providers to trick workers into getting their well-earned rights. The company now has 341 different operations.
Terzi is 44 years old, has a family of two children and has worked for WISAG and its predecessors for more than 20 years. “The Sky City bus is a trap,” he said. “Anyone who goes there loses all rights and starts over.” Terzi and most of the drivers weren’t ready to do that, and they objected to the spinoff, in which WISAG managing director Michael Dietrich threatened them that they would receive no more paychecks.
Terzi said, “On October 1st, we were working as usual. The Burak Baran manager gave us the option of starting from the Sky City Bus and taking the bus – or leaving straight away. He gave us 15 minutes to leave, otherwise he would attack us. Since then, we haven’t received any payments. It has now been almost five months since the end of October. “
Some workers have tried to get temporary support through the employment center and at the same time have complained to labor courts. But appointments were delayed and delayed for weeks and months: “The authorities let us starve to death. WISAG had a turnover of € 1.9 billion in 2020, but we couldn’t last that long. “
“What are we supposed to live for?” Asked Terzi. “We are all in danger, and the rent, the fees, and all the expenses continue.” He said workers had held gatherings among themselves in solidarity and opened extra accounts. “Nobody else helps us. From the WISAG side, there are zeros. There are no politicians to help us, and not even Verdi’s union. “
When they learned that prominent Verdi members sat on the WISAG board and all the supervisory boards, they left the union, he said. “What they all organize together there is modern slavery.”
Two other colleagues, Riza and Özkan, who worked as coordinators, were laid off on 17 December. “Who will do our job now? The shift leader has to do all our work himself now, but he remains silent, and is happy to keep his job, ”said one of them.
As they report, apron work is continuing, even though WISAG has received a short-time allowance for paid airport workers from the Labor Office for a year, since the pandemic began. “It’s easy for the jobcentre to check this and ask WISAG money back,” said one worker.
Adding to that over the past year, they experienced how the toil and exploitation of the aprons had increased: “We all got sick because they didn’t use enough people to handle the machines. Many fell ill because WISAG used only 70 percent of its intended workforce on machines, in the cargo area and on belts – everywhere. “
Most importantly, he said, experienced and qualified workers who had been doing the job for decades and knew the job had been laid off. They are simply replaced by unskilled contract workers.
They reported that even the boss himself had taken part in loading the machines when the staff shortage was too severe. But workers have to lift items that weigh more than one meter, one by one, as many as 300 to 400 items. The boss quickly gave up because of back pain.
The worker added, “But what is more important is that we all have to meet the requirements, train properly, and we have to undergo further training regularly. We work with dangerous goods, it’s a demanding job. If you don’t know how to load cargo properly and close the door properly, anything can happen in the air. What if a door suddenly opens while flying? The temporary workers who are currently at our workplace have been given two days of training. ‘In the future, every passenger should think twice before boarding a plane … “
Riza believes that WISAG was a deliberate decision to announce the dismissal ahead of Christmas. “That’s a pure calculation: we won’t be able to file action for protection against dismissal as all offices and authorities are closed. It was also an unfortunate time for industrial demonstrations and action. Besides, they purposely wanted to lower our spirits. “
He said they didn’t make it. “We will not give up,” read one sign. “We fight for jobs and we don’t give up,” Riza also told us. “It’s not just about getting our jobs back, it’s not just about the 230 fired workers and their families. Workers in Berlin, Hamburg and elsewhere were also affected. “
With their strike, the workers are also targeting company policy that neglects to catch the coronavirus. “When we were fighting the pandemic, our employers tried to evict us,” one of their banners read. As Benli, a seasoned worker, told WSWS, there have been several cases of the corona virus at WISAG. “Usually, colleagues must be informed and protected. But here everything is covered up – like the Mafia. “
The hunger strike of WISAG workers is an important call to their colleagues at other airports and for all workers. It’s time to be active and fight together!
The IGL sector union, which supported the hunger strike, restricted itself to appealing and petitioning to the Wissers and the ministers and capitalists behind them. Such efforts are in vain.
What is needed is to make contact with WISAG workers in Berlin, Hamburg and other locations, as well as with workers at other companies – at Fraport, Lufthansa, etc. – and at all airports in Europe. Everywhere, workers toil under the threat of layoffs and spinoffs, constantly threatened by the more dangerous mutation of the coronavirus.
That Socialist equality party (The Socialist Equality Party, SGP) called for an action committee to be formed, working independently of all trade unions and establishing contacts with other workplaces, to prepare for general strikes across Europe.
Every job must be maintained unconditionally! During the pandemic raging, only essential work has to be done, with full wages paid to all those who cannot work because of the dangers of the coronavirus. The life and rights of workers are higher than the interests of company profits.
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