I work in a nursery in Berlin. The public opinion is ‘nurseries are closed’. They are open. They are open for emergency cover. They are open for children of nurses, doctors, shop assistants ect. They are open for anyone who helps to keep society running and has no other option. For the last two days and for everyday next week, I am going to work (and definitely more in the future), to provide a service that makes sure that there is one more nurse or doctor in the hospital, one more person keeping the shops stocked etc. This is important right now; we need everyone we have in these roles working.
Let me be clear, this is a risk to my health and to the health of my loved ones. These children are not coming from families who are staying home in isolation. They are coming from families were the parents are also putting themselves at risk to help society, making our chances of infection highly likely.
I am proud to be doing this work to help society run. All staff will of course not all be in the nursery at the same time (this would be against government guidance and make the chances of spreading the virus very high). There will be times when we are working from home. But we will be working, we will be creating and planning new projects for the children when we eventually reopen. We will be catching up on all the important evaluation and monitoring of child development, we will be working on new concepts which will make the children’s experience much better in the future.
But most importantly we will be doing what the government is imploring us to do, staying at home and staying healthy. Making sure we will not take an intensive care bed from someone else and making sure that when our time comes back round again, we will be in work, providing emergency care for those members of society we so desperately need to be in work. But here comes the maddening part, the Berlin Senate has not yet said whether it will pay us in full for this.They might put us on ‘Kurzarbeitzeit’… short time = cut our pay. We are not paid much for our work (that, as all parents who are faced with 5 weeks with the children they chose to have, are only now realising is important).
We are not paid enough to have real savings to fall back on. It will be hard, very hard. But I will still be there when needed, to look after the children of the workers who look after us.All I ask is that Berlin Senate pays us our wage, so I can pay rent.
Kirsty Pattison has lived in Berlin since 2018. She works in a Kindergarten and is a GEW Trade Union member.