Germany rejects axeing law on sacking workers

26th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 July 2004, BERLIN - The German government Monday rejected axeing a tough law protecting workers from being sacked because it does not want to impose "American" or "Asian" conditions, a spokesman said.

26 July 2004

BERLIN - The German government Monday rejected axeing a tough law protecting workers from being sacked because it does not want to impose "American" or "Asian" conditions, a spokesman said.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's deputy spokesman, Thomas Steg, said job protection legislation - known as "Kuendigungsschutz" - had proven itself and there was no need for it to be reformed.

"The German government has no intention of instituting labour conditions which one can refer to as American or Asian," said Steg at a government news briefing.

Job protection is widely popular in Germany but business leaders say it creates unemployment with companies reluctant to hire extra workers due to fears they cannot shed labour in a downturn. Instead, companies prefer to allow a smaller number of employees to do overtime.

Calls at the weekend by opposition conservatives to axe the job protection law drew outrage from Schroeder's ruling Social Democrats (SPD) and trade unions.

"There are more chances with more freedom," said Friedrich Merz, deputy parliamentary leader of the opposition Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU), who noted Switzerland has no protection against sacking and an unemployment rate of under 4 percent.

In contrast, Germany's official jobless rate is stuck at over 10 percent, with unemployment in hard hit eastern German regions well over 20 percent.

"It's better to have limited-term employment than to be unemployed for an unlimited period," said Merz.

Backing Merz is the CDU premier of Lower Saxony state, Christian Wulff, who said in a Berliner Zeitung newspaper interview that the only people to gain from German job protection laws are the country's numerous labour courts and lawyers.

But Michael Mueller, a left-winger in Schroeder's SPD reacted with fury to talk of abolishing the legislation which remains a sacred cow to much of the left.

"Our constitution says Germany is a social welfare and justice state but what (they) are working on is to make Germany a low wage nation," said Mueller.

Hubertus Schmoldt, head of the energy, chemicals sector and mines trade union IG BCE, said the proposal showed its authors knew nothing about how the economy worked.

Jobs are created by demand for goods - not by whether or not there is job protection, said Schmoldt in a statement.

"Every country has its own social culture. The German culture has ensured that for the past 50 years our nation has been a big economic success and is still a world champion exporter," said Schmoldt.

He accused the CDU of seeking American-style "hire and fire" and vowed that unions would fight any attempt to impose what he termed "neo-liberal experiments."

Union leaders in Germany are edgy given that another pillar of their labour policy principles - the 35-hour workweek - is being rolled back under a series of agreements over the past month at major concerns including DaimlerChrysler and Siemens.

DPA

Subject: German news

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