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Germany: metal industry negotiations become increasingly strained
Planet Labor, 1 March 2021, n°12386 - www.planetlabor.com

With collective bargaining in Germany’s metal industry at a standstill, the IG Metall union has announced that a spell of warning strikes will run from 2 March 2021 until the end of the month. Once that period has elapsed, the union will have the legal right to launch an outright strike. For those familiar with Germany’s collective bargaining landscape, this phase is common and is indicative of disagreements as opposed to profound misunderstandings. This time, however, amid the burden of the pandemic on the economy, it appears the reality is closer to the second scenario. IG Metall wants to negotiate agreements on job security and site maintenance, a four-day week at companies that are struggling, a hiring guarantee for apprentices and a 4% pay rise (see article n°12218). Gesamtmetall, the Federation of German Employers’ Associations in the Metal and Electrical Engineering Industries, is a long way from meeting such demands and has so far only offered partial responses to the unions’ stances. The employer federation points to the fact that the turnover of many companies in the sector has fallen by between 15% and 30% and believes that there is nothing to redistribute for 2021. Gesamtmetall however may be prepared to negotiate a package of one-off bonuses and small conditional pay increases for 2022. The federation is also proposing a system that is close to a declaration of war, which is the possibility for companies in difficulty to decide against applying the future collective agreement, without asking the union’s permission. Until now, such a move has only been permitted following an assessment of the situation and a green light from IG Metall. This demand is undoubtedly Gesamtmetall’s response to a trade union demand that has got on the nerves of industry bosses, which is the desire to extend co-determination and the jurisdiction of the trade unions to all issues and choices as regards the digital and electrical transition at a company.