Agriculture: Farmers prevent Minister Habeck from leaving a ferry

The farmers' association has been taking its frustration with the federal government onto the streets since the run-up to Christmas.

Agriculture: Farmers prevent Minister Habeck from leaving a ferry

The farmers' association has been taking its frustration with the federal government onto the streets since the run-up to Christmas. Starting on Monday, farmers want to draw attention to their situation with a week of action. Angry farmers have already prevented Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) from leaving a ferry in Schlüttsiel in Schleswig-Holstein. They blocked the pier, as a police spokesman told the German Press Agency. Habeck, who is also the Minister of Economic Affairs, therefore had to return to the Hallig Hooge.

A spokeswoman for Habeck told the dpa that the minister was happy to talk to the farmers. "Unfortunately, the security situation did not allow a conversation with all farmers, and the offer made by Minister Habeck to talk to individual farmers was unfortunately not accepted."

The farmers are outraged because of the traffic light coalition's planned reduction in subsidies. Today the federal government responded to the massive farmers' protests: The coalition wants to forego the abolition of the vehicle tax exemption for agriculture. The abolition of the tax relief for agricultural diesel is to be extended and implemented in several steps, as the federal government spokesman announced in Berlin. However, the German Farmers' Association considers the measures to be inadequate - and is sticking to a week of action planned from Monday.

How big will the farmers' protest be? Many questions still remain unanswered

Association President Joachim Rukwied is calling on the government coalition made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP to withdraw savings plans for agricultural diesel and vehicle tax. He considers the improvements announced by the federal government on Thursday to be inadequate. The Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal (BGL) wants to join the protests next week.

The planned week of action has already caused a lot of excitement on social networks. "The German Farmers' Association strongly distances itself from idiots with subversive fantasies, radicals and other extreme fringe groups who want to hijack our week of action and hijack our protest for their concerns," the farmers' association wrote on Instagram. A general strike, which is being talked about in the networks, is legally almost impossible in Germany. Employers are organized in both the farmers' association and the BGL - they can call for a protest, but that is not a legally protected strike.

The most important questions and answers about the upcoming campaign week:

What exactly is the farmers' association planning?

In response to the federal government's austerity plans, the association has called for a week of action starting on January 8th. It is scheduled to culminate in a large demonstration in Berlin on January 15th. What exactly will happen on each day is still unclear in detail. Rallies and rallyes have been announced for Monday.

The federal government wanted to abolish tax breaks for agricultural diesel and motor vehicle tax for farmers in order to plug holes in the budget. On Thursday it announced that it would partially reverse the planned subsidy cuts. The vehicle tax exemption should therefore remain. It was said that the abolition of tax relief for agricultural diesel would not be carried out in one step.

The farmers were not appeased by this. “This can only be a first step,” emphasized Rukwied. “Our position remains unchanged: both proposals for cuts must be removed from the table.” The association is sticking to the action week.

Farmers demonstrated against the plans before Christmas, and traffic was sometimes disrupted. “The federal government’s tax increase plans must be withdrawn,” demanded association president Joachim Rukwied recently. According to the association, more than 3,000 tractors came to the capital during a large protest on December 18th in Berlin; the police spoke of 1,700 tractors.

What are the carriers planning?

The Federal Association of Road Haulage Logistics and Waste Disposal is calling for relief from tolls and diesel fuel and more money for roads, bridges and parking spaces. The association therefore wants to join the farmers' actions. “We are starting the week of action on January 8th with demonstrations in the state capitals,” it said. Details are missing here too.

What effects can be expected?

This is difficult to estimate given the still incomplete information available - but major chaos on the streets is not yet foreseeable. There will probably be isolated and regional disruptions; demonstrations with tractors in particular generally attract a lot of attention and tend to cause traffic jams simply because of the size of the vehicles. It is also possible that farmers will occasionally block roads with tractors. However, major impacts on the everyday lives of most people in Germany are not expected.

What role does the train drivers' union GDL play in this?

The GDL is currently in difficult collective bargaining negotiations with Deutsche Bahn and will probably call for a longer strike on the railways in the next few days. But this has nothing to do with the plans of farmers and freight forwarders, there is just a coincidental temporal overlap. The goals of the organizations are also completely different: The GDL is interested in more money for a good 10,000 DB employees, not in criticizing the traffic light government.

Whether farmers' actions will cause chaos in traffic at the same time as a GDL strike is also completely open and depends on the exact plans of the two organizations - although the details are not yet known.

General strike - is that even possible in Germany?

No, general strikes are almost impossible in the Federal Republic and the term for the upcoming events is out of place. The right to strike is a valuable asset in the Federal Republic. What is crucial, however, is that the strike relates to the conclusion of a collective agreement, not to political goals or ideas. "The case law in Germany clearly states that strikes are not possible for political goals. General strikes for political goals are also excluded," said Ernesto Klengel from the Hugo Sinzheimer Institute for Labor and Social Law to the German Press Agency.

In strikes for collective agreements, the participants are legally protected; for example, such a labor dispute may not be used as a reason for dismissal. This protection does not apply to protests or demonstrations during working hours. So anyone who stops work next week to show solidarity with the farmers against the federal government's policies risks consequences.

“You can of course call for demonstrations, even as a business association. But legally, this is a completely different level than a strike,” explained Klengel. "An unlawful strike or general strike could result in claims for damages for the associations. That's probably why they are distancing themselves from the term."

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