New negotiations for the metal and electrical industry

Mona Hetzel
November 27, 2020

New negotiations for the metal and electrical industry

The metal and electrical industry has a new employer boss. And he immediately attacks the union in the collective bargaining round, which demands four percent more money. The negotiating partners are divided. The future of countless jobs is at stake.

No sooner has Stefan Wolf been elected president of the employers' association Gesamtmetall than he hands out a decent amount of money to the union.  On Thursday, Wolf was unanimously elected as the new president of Gesamtmetall for two years by the association's executive board. The doctor of law succeeds Rainer Dulger, who was elected the same day as the new President of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA)."Many in IG Metall have not yet understood the situation we are in," he told journalists in Berlin on Friday. "I sometimes have the impression that IG Metall at the functionary level has distanced itself quite considerably from the people in our companies.This statement shows how hardened the fronts between the social partners are in the current round of collective bargaining for the 3.8 million employees in the metal and electrical industry.

The day before, the IG Metall had decided its final demand: Four percent more money for a term of one year is to be paid. The volume is to be invested either in classic wage increases or crisis-related reductions in working hours such as a four-day week with partial wage compensation.So-called future collective agreements, which are intended to secure employment, are also on the wish list. The intention is to give the employees perspectives, because the uncertainty reaches deep into the core workforce, said union leader Joerg Hofmann.
There is a great lack of understanding among employers. The fact that the corona crisis and structural change are enormously burdensome is, of course, also seen here - but with a completely different conclusion.

Production is 17 percent below the level reached in winter 2018, when the industry was not yet in recession. Only when this slump has really been made up for can we talk about growth again, Wolf said.The union now believes that it can see a margin of distribution of four percent. "I put a big question mark behind that," Wolf said. He referred to a quotation from Roman Zitzelsberger, who is the district manager of IG Metall in Baden-Württemberg and has often had dealings with Wolf, who previously led the employers there. Zitzelsberger had said that they were in the most serious crisis of the post-war period, that companies had been hit hard and that jobs were in danger. The employers were also concerned, he said, with securing jobs above all else.Increasing labor costs and making products more expensive does not help at all, Wolf said. Strikes and other industrial action cannot be ruled out, he said.The 59-year-old Wolf is Chairman of the Management Board of the automotive supplier ElringKlinger.

The company employs 10,000 people at 45 locations worldwide and is based in Dettingen an der Erms. Many employees live in the Swabian Alb and would have their living environment there. They are not interested in four percent more or less money, but in keeping their jobs.According to the entrepreneur, labor costs in this country are already too high. "We are no longer competitive in Germany," he said. The background to this is political decisions, but also wage agreements.He referred to a whole range of countries, including Estonia and Latvia, which are "really attractive" for companies. "If we don't get down on labor costs, we'll have a real problem here," said the head of Gesamtmetall.Calculations by the employers' association show that the average salary in the metal and electrical industry, including all additional payments, is over 60,000 euros per year.In the coming weeks, the employers will now have to deal with those trade unionists who Wolf believes are unrealistic. Various employer representatives at regional level - including Wolf himself - had called for a zero round in advance.So far one had naturally always found a compromise, explained wolf now.  Many, for whom he speaks, see no room for distribution and demand that this be taken into account in the negotiations.

In view of the pandemic, the organization of meetings between employer and employee representatives will also become a difficulty. He could not imagine purely virtual negotiations, Wolf said. One needed direct confrontation and friction.However, he said that one also had a role model function. You can't meet in a large group if at the same time you tell the employees to stay at home if possible and not to meet each other. We still have to agree on the structure.

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