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Germany – Article criticizes temporary labour

07 May 2012

An extensive article in Spiegel Online International compares four employment models in the German automotive sector and draws the conclusion that only a lucky few are benefiting from the economic boom, while stagnant wages and precarious employment conditions are making it difficult for millions to make ends meet. 

The article compares the experiences of a four workers associated with the carmaker Audi including the CEO, a long term member of staff, one supplier and a temporary worker.

According to Spiegal the working world is disintegrating. On the one side are managers, specialists and members of the core workforce, who benefit from the fact that well-trained workers are scarce. On the other side is the reserve pool of workers who can be used as needed and then let go - as contract workers or through special-order contracts, part-time work or temporary jobs. Many of these people work outside the provisions of collective bargaining agreements.

The article claims that, in 2010, normal full-time employees who are required to make social insurance contributions earned an average gross monthly salary of €2,700 compared with only about €1,400 for temporary workers. The IG Metal Union is currently trying to convince the temporary-employment industry to require companies to pay extra wages to workers when they are used in the metal and electronics industries. The union's admitted aim in this is to make temporary work so unattractive to companies that they might consider employing temporary workers on regular terms.The article claims that reforms to make the German labour market more flexible “have clearly failed to reach one of their two goals”. More temporary labor and short-term employment relationships were intended to make the labour market more flexible and thereby lead to more employment, and this has been achieved. But they were also expected to form a bridge from unemployment into well-paid staff positions, which allegedly hasn't happened. "The hopes of non-core and temporary workers of entering the core workforce and thereby participating in prosperity have hardly been fulfilled so far," says Lutz Bellmann, a labor market specialist at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg, a division of the Federal Employment Agency. Only about 8% of temporary workers are permanently hired within a year by the companies they are used in, he explains, and very few successfully negotiate the transition from mini-jobs and short-term work contracts into the safe world of wage-agreement tables and bonuses. 

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