Shorter hours for Ger­mans?

The Mercury - - BUSINESS REPORT - Ge­orgina Prod­han and Hol­ger Hansen

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

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