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The German government this week announced plans to extend its subsidised short-time working scheme from six to 12 months. The programme, known as ‘Kurzarbeit’, helps companies from laying off staff in times of economic troubles.
Although politicians have listened to unions and employer groups regarding extension of the scheme, they have decided not to follow demands which would have made the Kurzarbeit available to temporary agency workers.
In response, unions have found some harsh words of criticism today.
“It is a socio-political scandal of the first order to exclude agency workers from the short-time working scheme,” said Detlef Wetzel of the IG Metall union, which represents workers in the metal and electrical industries.
In an interview with the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau on Friday, the trade union demanded further action from the government.
Mr Wetzel argued that agency workers are the first to lose their jobs in an economic crisis and need more protection. He said: “We are asking labour minister Ursula von der Leyen to introduce immediately the short-time working scheme for agency workers.”
Staffing federations have called for the introduction of the scheme in the agency work sector. Last week, the head of Germany’s federal labour agency, Frank-Jürgen Weise also expressed his support.
Many believe that Kurzarbeit has proved successful in the recent recession and helped save jobs. Under the scheme, the German state compensates up to 67% of an employee’s net salary if an employer has to cut back on wage cost and working times during an economic slowdown.