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Germany – Give temporary work a chance, urges Labour Minister

24 February 2012

The German Labour Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has come to the defence of temporary employment in the country, after a collective bargaining round for temporary workers this week has so far not led to any agreement. The topic always stirs up a hot debate in a country where mixed views regarding temporary employment are ubiquitous.

Talking to a local newspaper, the OTZ, Ursula von der Leyen gave a clear response to the question whether temporary work is really needed in the future.

“Temporary work deserves to be given a chance. [Temporary work] was, and still is, for many people an opportunity to enter into employment [that offers] social security contributions on the labour market. Two-thirds of newly hired temporary workers had previously not been in employment. Almost half of [temporary workers] had not been in employment for up to one year, and eight per cent had never worked before,” she said.

The German government has long been arguing that temporary employment offers the long-term unemployed an opportunity to gain foothold on an increasingly competitive job market. But Mrs Von der Leyen also said that the benefits are mutual and of particular advantage for companies hiring temporary employees. “Companies can cover their staffing needs quickly and flexibly with temporary work, which offers advantages for competition. Temporary work therefore has a value, but there need to be reliable guidelines.”

Mrs Von der Leyen is a strong supporter of the “equal pay” principle that will allow temporary workers to earn the same as permanent employees. She said that “We have just established a reliable minimum wage for the approximately 900,000 [temporary] employees in the industry to protect them from low wage dumping.”

Talking about this week’s collective bargaining between trade unions and employer federations in the metal and electrical industry, the Labour Minister has called for a settlement between the two parties that are currently unable to agree on wage adjustments for temporary employees – as otherwise, the Government would have to intervene.

She said “The deadline is looming… employer associations and trade unions need to come to an arrangement, allowing temporary workers to earn the same as permanent employees.  If they do not succeed in settling this this spring, an expert commission will determine a time [when the collective bargaining round should be settled by].”

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