German industryaverts strike
12 February 2004
PFORZHEIM – German metalworkers and employers struck a key wage deal early Thursday, with politicians in Berlin expressing relief that a potentially damaging labour conflict had been averted.
All-night talks in the southwestern city of Pforzheim ended after 16 hours with negotiators for the metalworkers union IG Metall and for the employers group Gesamtmetall striking a 26-month compromise wage accord.
The agreement calls for a pay rise of 2.2 percent on 1 March and fixes another of 2.7 percent for 1 March 2005. The contract, replacing one that ran out at the end of 2003, would expire on 28 February 2006.
IG Metall had entered the wage campaign seeking a one-year, 4 percent pay rise for some 3.5 million workers in the metals and electronics sectors.
Employers had offered two increases of 1.2 percent over 27 months, coupled with a clause for longer hours – up to 40 per week – at no extra pay, a demand rejected by the union.
In the wage deal, complex formulae were agreed allowing up to half the workforce in each firm to work 40 hours, with the extra hours paid. Under previous accords, the work week is fixed at 35 hours.
The compromise accord makes no provision for an increase in working hours in what was seen as a victory for the union.
Initially, the pact is for the southwestern wage district of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which traditionally serves as a model for wage accords between the union and employers in other regions.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and other politicians across party lines welcomed the accord which promises wage stability for the next two years as the German economy struggles to wake up from its two years of stagnation.
“This is certainly a good deal, no doubt about it,” Schroeder told the TV news channel N24.
“This will help to move the economy forward. I can only say to those who have paved the way on this – that this is something which will be helpful,” Schroeder said.
Peter Rauen, of the pro-business opposition party Christian Democratic Union, called the agreement “sensible” and “very reasonable”.
The head of the German parliament’s economic affairs committee, Social Democrat deputy Rainer Wend, said he believed that the accord will “in substance help to preserve jobs or even create new ones, rather than destroying them”.
After the deal was struck in Pforzheim, IG Metall head Juergen Peters and Gesamtmetall president Martin Kannegiesser appealed to negotiators in other German states to adopt the agreement.
Subject: German news