News round-up #3
Neo-Nazi scandals shake German politics
Several politicians, police and soliders have been outed as members of far-right networks, in a series of scandals that highlights the links between the German establishment and neo-Nazi groups.
In Brandenburg, an instructor at a police academy has been revealed to be a leading member of Uniter, a network that has carried out combat training and whose members have been accused of drawing up hit-lists of politicians and immigrants. The instructor said he will leave the group, but so far remains in post at the police academy. Die Linke politicians are calling for more action.
Earlier in December, a politician in Angela Merkel's CDU party was outed as having fascist connections, threatening the governing coalition with the SPD and Greens in Saxony-Anhalt. Photographs emerged showing Robert Möritz, a local CDU politician, stewarding a neo-Nazi demo in 2011. He was also a Uniter member. Möritz claims to have changed his ways and says his "Black Sun" tattoo, which is a Nazi design, merely reflects his interest in Celtic mythology.
Some media reports say there are further CDU members connected to Uniter. Members of the elite Kommados Specialkräfte (KSK) unit of the German armed forces have also been revealed to be involved.
Parliament backs Hizbollah ban
The German parliament (Bundestag) has approved a non-binding motion urging the government to ban Lebanon's Hezbollah party. The motion was backed by the CDU, the social democrats (SPD) and the FDP. It is not binding but will increase pressure on the government. At the moment Germany, in line with most EU countries, classifies only Hezbollah’s military wing as terrorist.
Discrimination cases on the rise
The number of people seeking advice from the federal anti-discrimination body (Antidiskriminierungsstelle) has doubled since 2010. In 2018, the office recorded a total of 4,216 cases of discrimination, including 1,070 related to racism. Other cases involved gender, disability and age discrimination. Despite the increase, the number of staff at the anti-discrimination body has only risen slightly, from 24 to 32.
Pay rises for temps and builders
Around 750,000 temporary agency workers (Leiharbeiter*innen) will get more money and more holiday, in a deal agreed under collective negotiations with eight trade unions. Wages will rise 1.9% in the West and 3% percent in the East next year. Further pay rises and increases in holiday and Christmas bonuses in 2021 and 2022 were also agreed.
Meanwhile, up to 200,000 construction workers will benefit from new minimum wages agreed with the industrial union Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt (IG BAU). From April 1st the minimum wage for unskilled construction work will rise by 35 cents to €12.55 per hour. The minimum for skilled construction workers in Berlin will rise by 20 cents to €15.25.
800 join Neukölln protest against Nazi attacks
800 people demonstrated against right-wing violence in Neukölln. Protesters marched from Hermannplatz to Rathaus Neukölln carrying slogans such as "No place for Nazis!". The demonstration had been called by the anti-racist coalition Bündnis Neukölln after a string of attacks by fascists, including 16 arson attacks and 35 instances of damage to property.
Berlin housing co-ops oppose rent cap
A poster campaign against the rent cap has been launched by a coalition of cooperative housing companies in Berlin. The Wohnungsbaugenossenschaften say they already offer low rents, at an average of €5.60 per square meter, and that the cap would prevent them from investing in building new homes. Katrin Lompscher, the Linke housing senator, argues there are already exceptions in the proposed cap that would protect the co-ops.
First action to stop Amazon mega-office
The "Berlin vs. Amazon" campaign began its fight against the company with a first day of action. The tech giant plans to build a 35-storey office tower at Warschauer Strasse. The alliance staged an artistic protest and information action, which featured a Berlin bear demolishing a symbolic tower of cardboard Amazon boxes. The campaign brings together activists from groups including Tech Workers Coalition, Bizim Kiez, Make Amazon Pay and No Google Campus.
New groups for workers' climate action
"Workers for Future" groups have been formed across Germany, based on the climate youth movement "Fridays for Future". They have released a text titled "Jobs must not be an argument against climate protection", calling for solidarity with the climate strike. It has been signed by numerous trade unionists and works councils.