[A-List] Germany: state sector labour militancy
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Wed Dec 18 06:11:25 MST 2002
Germany hit by wave of public sector strikes
By Hugh Williamson in Berlin
Financial Times: December 18 2002
Tens of thousands of airline passengers in Germany were left stranded by
strikes by public sector employees, as Germany's largest trade union stepped
up the pressure for a large pay increase ahead of new wage talks on
Lufthansa said approximately 25,000 passengers were affected by the short
"warning strikes" mounted by airport staff belonging to the Verdi services
trade union. Frankfurt and Munich airports were most severely affected.
More than 100,000 Verdi members across Germany were involved in the strike
actions, which each lasted up to several hours. The strikes also briefly
halted local transport and public services in many cities.
Verdi's action represented a hardening of the union's stance in the pay
talks with the government and local authorities. The union is demanding a
wage increase of more than 3 per cent, in line with agreements this year in
the private sector.
The employers have yet to put forward an offer, and have warned that many
local authorities cannot afford any wage increase because of to the poor
state of public finances. Otto Schily, interior minister, warned Verdi
against "going too far" with its strike action at airports.
The strikes came as the government and the conservative opposition finalised
last-minute alterations to laws on labour market reforms, paving the way for
their introduction from January 1 onwards.
The agreement on the reform measures - a lead item on the government's
agenda for the next four years - will come as a relief to Chancellor Gerhard
Schröder, whose personal standing has suffered badly in recent weeks.
The alterations represent a blow to Germany's influential trade union
movement, which has campaigned against some aspects of the liberalisation
measures agreed yesterday.
The main compromise, due to be confirmed last night by government and
opposition politicians in a special parliamentary liaison committee, focuses
on the expansion of Germany's under-developed low wage sector.
Under opposition pressure, the government has agreed to expand opportunities
for workers in so-called "mini-jobs" to earn low incomes on a legal basis,
by raising the threshold at which employees have to pay tax social security
contributions to ?400 a month from the current ?325.
Wolfgang Clement, economics and labour minister, said these changes would
create some 320,000 new low wage jobs.
Senior trade union officials warned that this prediction was too optimistic,
as many existing jobs would be broken up into a number of smaller mini-jobs
to save employers money.
The government also made concessions to the opposition by loosening
restrictions on employment in private households, but stood by earlier
commitments to the trade unions on the introduction of forrmalised
collective bargaining arrangements for staff of temporary employment
The measures, which originate in the Hartz commission labour market reform
proposals presented in August, are expected to pass through parliament on
Friday. Two other laws containing parts of the Hartz reforms are to be
tabled in parliament next year.
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