The industry is in the midst of dramatic upheavals. IG Metall wants to use the collective bargaining for metal and electronics to have a bigger say in electrification and digitization.
Dhe IG Metall wants to have a much stronger say in the technological restructuring of German industry in order to secure as many jobs as possible. In the upcoming collective bargaining for around 3.8 million employees in the metal and electronics industries, the union is therefore not only demanding four percent more money, but also so-called future collective agreements and intelligent options for reducing working hours. The corona pandemic is also fueling the development. The employees are alarmed and look to the future with great concern, said the first chairman of the union, Jörg Hofmann, of the German press agency. “Many feel a high level of uncertainty. Experience from the pandemic mixes with the perception of the economic crisis and structural changes. Digitization has seen another boost during the pandemic. That brought a lot forward, but also called a lot into question. ”The implementation of the climate protection goals also led many to the question:“ What does that mean for me and my professional prospects? ”
The union boss gave the companies bad marks for answering these questions: “Unfortunately, it has been one of the constants of our employee surveys since 2013 that a large proportion of up to 50 percent of employees cannot identify the strategy of their company.” already frightening. “We have to continue to intervene, we have to continue to challenge the companies.” However, when it comes to future collective agreements, you don’t start from scratch, said Hofmann. Future products and processes are already described in detail in a number of contracts. “This ranges from Volkswagen, with the systematic switch to electromobility that has just started, to smaller companies that have their own ideas for their future.”
Corona weighs on the industry
Of course, there could also be conflicts – such as at the automotive supplier Continental, which wants to cut 13,000 jobs in Germany alone. There is a dispute here about what should be the focus of corporate strategy. “Sustainability with the qualifications and innovative strength of employees and trainees or cheap cost driving with relocation of production to low-wage locations.” That is a clear conflict of interests that will be resolved. The economic situation is very different for the companies in the Corona crisis, said the IG Metall boss. In addition to companies that have been badly hit – for example in the aviation industry – there are on the other hand around 20 percent who have not yet noticed a crisis. In vehicle construction, on the other hand, a strong recovery set in after the summer, which is currently endangered by problems in the supply chains.
The bottom line is that IG Metall is demanding a volume of four percent due to the heterogeneous situation, which, depending on the situation, increases wages or partially compensates for the loss of income in the event of reduced working hours. This also supports private demand, which is becoming increasingly important for the economy. Hofmann again promoted the four-day week model, which reduced working hours from 35 to 32 hours with only partial wage compensation. “Employers and works councils have the same interest in keeping the skilled workers. The four-day week offers an alternative to reducing working hours where short-time work is not possible or makes no sense. It is designed for the long term and does not only react to economic fluctuations. That is why we also need partial compensation here. “
Progress in the talks
“Those who work shorter hours are more productive,” explained the unionist. “We already have extremely flexible working hours in industry. We would like to regulate the working time accounts according to collective agreements, which employers in many regions have so far refused to do. We also have to protect employees from arbitrariness and excessive demands. For example, you need binding registration deadlines to make life plannable. ”Warning strikes in key German industries such as automobiles and mechanical engineering can only take place in March because of the peace obligation. “I’m glad that we have two months to negotiate for the first time in the new year,” said Hofmann. He sees some positive signs from the previous talks in spring 2020. One now has to wait for the negotiations in the regions, said Hofmann. It will only be difficult if employers continue to “wall themselves in”. But he sees progress.
Under pandemic conditions, the forms of industrial action would have to adapt, said Hofmann. “During warning strikes, we will surely carry our protests in public differently than standing in front of the factory gates with lots of red flags and lots of red flags.” For example, they have had good experiences with car parades. However, despite digital options, it is more difficult than in the company to address employees. The union also felt the poor economic development in its branches in its membership development, said the first chairman. “In metal and electronics alone, around 120,000 permanent positions and tens of thousands of temporary workers have been lost.” Germany’s largest trade union wants to present exact figures in the coming year.