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“German model” contested by trade unions ... in Germany

Translated Monday 6 September 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

“Wage moderation” and austerity don’t make it any more. The IG Metall trade union is demanding a 6% hike as wage negotiations begin in the steel industry.

The spiel about the “German model” and the wage moderation that is indispensable for the competitiveness of “Standort Deutschland” (production site Germany) is being contested more and more by the trade unions in Germany. The jump in economic growth chalked up in the second quarter (up 2.2%) has reinforced their determination to demand significant wage hikes.

Thus the IG Metall trade union is demanding a 6% increase in the negotiations for steel workers set to begin on Monday Sept. 6 in three Länder. “The workers must benefit from economic growth,” said Olivier Burkhard (IG Metall in Rhineland-Palatinate).

For his part, the head of the DGB (the German trade union confederation), Michael Sommer, deplores the fact that, despite growth, the workers are “always forced into job insecurity and temporary work.” “We will no longer tolerate that in future,” he said while discussing the need to adopt a minimum wage in a country that does not have one.

And he confirmed that this Fall will be hot on the labor front. The super austerity plan announced by Angela Merkel, retirement at age 67 and the anti-social reform of health insurance are all in the union confederation’s line of fire. Several weeks of actions punctuated by “mass assemblies” are scheduled for October.

The DGB, which until now had accepted “wage moderation” in the name of a “labor-management partnership,” is thus projecting a much less consensual attitude. It is also openly condemning the posture of the German authorities who, pointing to the EU’s monetarist principles, are demanding, together with the financial markets, drastic austerity plans from all of their “partners.”
Such austerity plans can only lead to disappointment in days ahead, a leader who handles economic questions for the union pointed out to l’Humanité. “Because Germany, the export champion that realizes close to 50% of its foreign trade with other EU countries, is going to strangle its own customers in this way.” The DGB is demanding a different way of financing EU governments (see the June 29 edition of l’Humanité) which will make it possible for them to refuse to bow to the dictates of the financial markets.

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