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The German Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen strongly criticised malpractices in the temporary staffing industry in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt. The Minister said that temporary work “creates flexibility in the short term… but it should not lower wages in the long term.” But she also made it clear that temporary work should not replace permanent work.
With her comments, she clearly denounced claims that the introduction of the equal pay principle for temporary workers will half future sales for the staffing industry. Instead she reiterated her position and was keen to set out clear regulations which will ensure equal pay for temps. She said that she was keen to implement these changes in the current legislative period.
“It is unacceptable that employees do the same work in the long term and that there are unequal salaries for this,” she emphasised. She said it was her job to ensure that companies pay fairly. “Competition should run over the service and quality of products and not alone over lower prices,” Mrs Von der Leyen said.
Despite her strong stance towards equal pay for temporary workers, the Minister does not want to force companies to pay the same salaries for men and women. “Salaries are the quintessential business of trade unions and employers,” she said. However, she urged companies to make salary structures more transparent.
Recently the Minister also said in an interview that “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.”
But nonetheless the country has been engaged in a heated debate over both the use of and pay levels for temporary workers. Dissidents continue to claim that temps suffer from wage dumping and are worse off than permanent workers, while unions fiercely oppose the “excessive” use of temporary workers in certain industries.
On Friday the works council at BMW had to accept another defeat in court after it had sued the automobile giant over its use of temporary workers. A labour court has now decided that BMW may renew the contracts of around 300 temporary workers, something that comes as a blow to the works council.
“Our goal is to reduce the quota of temporary workers… they should be taken over as permanent staff,” said the chairman of BMW’s works council, Jens Köhler.