Shorter hours for Germans?
THE TRADE union powerhouse that won the 35-hour work week for Germans more than 20 years ago is mobilising for a new campaign to reduce working hours at the annual wage negotiations that are about to kick off.
IG Metall – Germany’s biggest union with 2.3 million workers, mainly in the car and manufacturing industries – says shorter hours will help shift workers and those who need to care for children or elderly relatives, with implications for how German society evolves in the 21st century.
If the union is successful, economists counting on strong wage rises will be watching to see if there are deflationary effects as domestic consumption overtakes exports as the driver of the euro zone’s biggest economy.
The uni on begins internal discussions at local level on Thursday, just as campaigning in Germany’s parliamentary election enters its final phase, with issues of work and family high on the agenda.
“The timing could have been made to order for a wage round in which our issues will have great support from society,” IG Metall president Joerg Hofmann told a union conference in late June as he launched the initiative.
“The value of time and the value of money will carry equal weight,” he said last week.
IG Metall will release its national list of demands at the end of next month, while negotiations with employers are set to start in November.
Buoyed by record employment, a shortage of skilled labour and a strong economy, the union is in its strongest bargaining position for years. Employers are rattled. “Working time is our number one concern,” said Oliver Zander, chief executive of the Gesamtmetall umbrella association of employers.
“We need more hours to be worked.” – Reuters