Conflict-ridden labor dispute in prospect

Photo: dpa / Sven Hoppe

In the current collective bargaining round for the major sectors in the organizational area of ​​IG Metall, a tough and conflict-ridden course is emerging. After the peace obligation has expired on February 28, the pressure is to be increased on March 1 for a nationwide day of action. So far, the union leadership had sought to conclude the regional collective bargaining negotiations with the employers’ associations quickly by the end of February. This is now “highly unlikely,” said union leader Jörg Hofmann on Thursday at the annual press conference of his organization in Frankfurt am Main. “We have to establish that in some regions employers are completely unwilling to even come to a collective bargaining solution,” said Hofmann.

If necessary, the collective bargaining round could continue after Easter. If, contrary to expectations, there should be a breakthrough, March 1st will be celebrated as a holiday for a good wage result. For the collective bargaining areas metal and electrical industry, Volkswagen, iron and steel as well as textiles and clothing, the union demands a volume of four percent, which, depending on the company, should be used for higher wages or partial wage compensation in the event of a reduction in working hours.

The slump in employment as a result of the corona pandemic and the economic crisis did not leave the largest German trade union unaffected. In 2020, the number of members fell by almost 48,000 to currently 2.21 million. That corresponds to a minus of two percent. According to Hofmann, the Corona requirements had restricted membership recruitment through direct contact and personal persuasion. Nevertheless, the losses due to resignation and death were also offset by 87,500 newcomers. At least 25,000 of these are online.

Even under difficult conditions, one relies on consistent membership participation in determining the direction of the organization. In a member survey, over 80 percent said they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with IG Metall’s crisis management policy. This positive image applies to all age groups and qualifications. “Look for comparable approval ratings in other mass associations or even political parties,” Hofmann said proudly.

In the super election year of 2021, the organization wants to interfere in the parties’ program debates, the election campaign and the drafting of a future coalition agreement. “We want majorities for social, ecological and democratic change as well as good work for everyone,” emphasized Hofmann. The pandemic has shown how important a reliable welfare state is. Therefore, one will position itself against all forces that want to settle the debts with social cuts and shift the burden of the crisis onto the broader population

While the number of workers in the classic skilled workers’ union fell slightly, the share of white-collar workers in total membership increased further. Engineers and other employees also played an increasingly important role in the works council, underlined the second chairwoman Christiane Benner.

A particular concern of IG Metall is, in addition to better conditions for trainees and dual students, above all more rights for works councils. They would have to be granted a comprehensive right of initiative in further training and a right of co-determination when introducing home offices. Because every sixth new works council is massively hindered, the initiators should be better protected against dismissals. The current draft of the Federal Ministry of Labor still falls far too short and should not be “watered down further” by the Federal Cabinet, underlined Benner.

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