By Andrew Brady A nation that traditionally has had a more collegiate tone to industrial relations epitomised through co-determination has been shaken over the last few weeks after a wave of industrial unrest that has hit Germany. In a high profile suc …

Andrew

By Andrew Brady

A nation that traditionally has had a more collegiate tone to industrial relations epitomised through co-determination has been shaken over the last few weeks after a wave of industrial unrest that has hit Germany.

In a high profile success for German postal workers after the threat of industrial strikes their union Verdi achieved a substantial pay increase in the partly state-owned German postal service – Deutsche Post. Germany’s 132,000 postal workers are due to get 5.7 percent higher wages in the course of the next 26 months and the wage agreement would take effect in August with the increase being paid out in two steps. Apprentices at the company get 6.1 percent more as of April 1.

Last week Lufthansa cancelled the majority of its flights scheduled for Monday (22 April) due to a strike over pay. The airline said only 32 of its flights would run as planned, out of more than 1,700 originally scheduled. The one-day strike by technicians and service staff at Lufthansa led to the cancellation of flights at airports in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Hannover, Dusseldorf and Cologne.

Verdi, is calling for a 5.2 percent wage increase for the company’s 33,000 employees and employment guarantees and improvements for trainees. The main reason for the expansion of the dispute is not just a derisory pay offer but wider costs cutting measures planned by the company. The airline offered to raise salaries by 1.2 percent from October and by a further 0.5 percent a year later, in a deal with no job guarantees. Germany’s airports and railways have been hit repeatedly over the past two years by strikes involving pilots, control tower staff, airfield workers, security staff and train drivers.

In a further high profile dispute that is brewing with Amazon.com the company could be facing its first strike in Germany by warehouse workers. Amazon employs around 9,000 people across Germany and it is coming under pressure for refusing to implement a collective agreement on employment conditions which is operated by Germany’s other mail order and retail firms.

Amazon workers in the eastern city of Leipzig voted in favor of strike action earlier in April this month and staff at Bad Hersfeld, a town in central Germany where 3,700 are employed, joined them yesterday (Monday 29 April). The workers union Verdi said almost 98 percent of those taking part in the ballot at Bad Hersfeld voted for strike action. In Leipzig, Verdi is calling for starting pay of 10.66 euros an hour in contrast with the present level of 9.30 euros. In Bad Hersfeld, there is a pay request of 12.18 euros from 9.83.

Amazon hit headlines in Germany in February after it employed security staff from a company linked to a neo-Nazi group who were bullying its employees. Amazon has since terminated the contract, saying it regretted the events.

The unrest is a result of years of pay restraint which has been succinctly articulated by former Vice Chancellor of Germany, Heiner Flassbeck, a contributor to USi in the past. Flassbeck pointedly said: “Since the start of the Union in 1999 Germany, the biggest country and the European stronghold of external stability for several decades had introduced new ways to fight high and persistent unemployment. As work time reduction schemes and other measures had failed to bring unemployment down in a tripartite agreement in 1999 even union leaders agreed to abandon the traditional formula basing wage growth on equal participation of workers in productivity growth and go for a strategy where productivity growth would be available to improve Germany’s competitiveness.”

The ‘agreement’ which Flassbeck refers to may be under huge pressure as workers demand a larger share of the cake and thus having the benefit of also contributing to Southern European countries ability to export more as German labour costs rise.


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