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Germany – Union wins 4.3% pay rise but what about temporary workers?

21 May 2012

The trade union IG Metall, which represents workers in the metal and electrical industry, has come to a collective agreement with employers in the South-Western German State of Baden-Württemberg which will see a 4.3% pay rise for 800,000 workers with retroactive affect from 1 May 2012.

This agreement is setting the ground for future national bargaining rounds and could be perceived as the benchmark for nationwide settlements affecting over 3.6 million workers in the industry. The agreement will also see apprentices, who had so far worked on fixed-term contacts, be taken on as permanent staff while temporary workers will have to be offered jobs after two years of employment. 

Although the wage increase has been welcomed by the unions and is celebrated as a success, they had initially demanded a pay rise of 6.5% and this is likely to be their target in further negotiations with employers.

The union is also planning to achieve a pay rise for temporary workers in separate negotiations with the employers of the temporary staffing sector.

But critics argue that the new rules will barely have an impact on either working conditions or conversion rates. One newspaper in the region, Südwest Presse, criticised in a press release that “temporary workers will remain second-class employees and hardly anything will change for apprentices. 4.3% may sound like a chunky wage increase but workers in the metal industry have hardly profited in the past years from the development of their companies.”

“Apprentices will not need to be taken over in case of ‘acute employment problem.’ Work councils will have no influence over the conversion rate. Temporary workers have a right of permanent employment after 24 months. But most of them will not even stay in the company for 12 months so will not benefit from these results.”

IG-Metall boss Berthold Huber said that his union had achieved a lot in improving the situation for temporary workers although “he would have wished for more.” Initially, the unions had also lobbied to achieve a co-determination right over the number of temporary staff a company may use but this has not been successful.

The President of the Association of Employers in the Metal Industry (Gesamtmetall), Martin Kannegiesser said the negotiations regarding temporary employment were difficult. But he said the new package has to end the debate on temporary staffing, “not only between the bargaining parties but also on a political level.”

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