Educators work so hard

Thu 12th May, 2022

It's been going on all week, just like this Thursday: teachers at municipal daycare centers and after-school programs are on strike all over Germany. Many parents are probably thinking: "That's not all. They are exhausted after two years of pandemic, in which the children were constantly at home. Will their understanding grow when they learn more about the strikers' daily work?

The German government has shed light on how social workers and daycare workers work in an answer to a parliamentary question, which is available to the SZ. The 74 pages contain the sentence that social and educational workers "work more often in forced positions compared to all other occupational groups. Forced postures? Bent over, kneeling, above the head. To dress children, comfort them, put them on the toilet or heave them off the playground equipment. Such postures occur twice as often as in other occupations - as does noise. Anyone who has ever seen a daycare center from the inside, even if it was for five minutes during pickup, believes this immediately.

According to the government, daycare center staff have to do more than the average amount of different things at once. They experience emotionally stressful situations twice as often as other occupational groups. And they work 16 million hours of overtime a year due to staff shortages - half of it unpaid. "Many employees have been working at the limit for years," says Pascal Meiser, a member of the Left Party, who asked the question.

Last year, nursery school teachers reported sick particularly often

The pandemic is not even included in the data provided by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In 2021, educators were absent 13 percent more often due to illness, according to the health insurance company DAK-Gesundheit - no other occupational group experienced such an increase. Young children do not wear masks. They could be vaccinated against Corona only late or not at all until today. But they naturally want to be on the lap.

There is no doubt that daycare workers are needed. The number of places for children has soared as more working mothers and fathers seek care. Researchers warn there will be a shortage of hundreds of thousands of daycare workers by the end of the decade if nothing is done.

With their strikes, daycare staff are trying to put pressure on cities and municipalities. Educators earn on average 1000 euros less than bank clerks, with the same length of training. The Verdi union is demanding that daycare workers be paid 4100 euros gross per month after ten years on the job. So far it is 3700 euro. And they should be given time to prepare the daycare program instead of doing it on the side, as they do now. Or in their free time.

Starting Monday, Verdi will again negotiate with the employers. An agreement for the 300,000 municipal educators and social workers would send a signal to the more than 1.5 million people who work in the sector. But the municipalities are balking. The salary of educators has already risen twice as much as salaries in the public sector in general. What Verdi vice president Christine Behle announces for a failure of the negotiations, the plagued parents will not want to hear: "Then we have to massively expand the strikes."

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