Strike Wave or Last Minute Closure? (nd current)

Are the signs pointing to a strike?

Photo: dpa / Paul Zinken

In the collective bargaining round for the metal and electrical industry (M + E) with almost four million employees, the moment of truth is approaching. The IG Metall-Spitze had actually hoped that, with demonstrative moderation and a willingness to compromise, they could reach a compromise of some kind before the end of the peace obligation at the end of February without the pressure to strike. The metallers had already accepted a zero round in 2020. The current package of claims is also moderate.

IG Metall is calling for a four percent increase in income. This volume should be used for a wage increase or, in the event of a lack of orders, also for securing jobs by reducing working hours with only partial wage compensation. In companies that are affected by a transformation in the direction of electric motors, the metal workers are demanding continued employment and qualifications. But the Entrepreneurs Association Gesamtmetall does not seem to appreciate this concession at all and goes on the offensive in the negotiations that have been going on since December. “If Südwestmetall does not abandon its demands, a conflict is inevitable,” threatens Baden-Württemberg IG Metall boss Roman Zitzelsberger. The same picture emerges next door in Bavaria, also a stronghold of the vehicle and supplier industry. “So far we have only seen one frontal attack on collective agreements. Employers want to cut vacation and Christmas bonuses, differentiate wages and minimize trade union influence, ”said an IG Metall spokesman from the Free State to“ nd ”.

In the industry, negotiations are carried out decentrally in the regions. A first degree often has a »pilot function« for the rest of the republic. Many “pilot degrees” were made in the southwest. Both sides want to meet again this Thursday for a third round. Negotiations will take place again in Bavaria on Friday. However, as a precautionary measure, Zitzelsberger dampens expectations of a deal. “A new negotiation date is not in itself a success,” he emphasizes. After all, Südwestmetall had “so far refused to hold any talks about the future” and “only aimed to worsen collective bargaining standards.” After the end of the peace obligation, a conflict is “inevitable,” he warns. Similar signals are also coming from Munich. “We prepare for all eventualities. Warning strikes can take place from Tuesday, “said a spokesman for the IG Metall district of Bavaria. The fronts seem hardened, the IG Metall sees itself forced to fill the “digital day of action” announced weeks ago with life on the coming Monday and to organize the first warning strikes in strong-fighting companies. Not only in the south are the signs pointing to conflict. “Corona cannot stop the will to fight for our justified demands,” said Clarissa Bader, 1st authorized representative of the IG Metall branch in Ennepe-Ruhr-Wupper (North Rhine-Westphalia). “It will not be easy under the existing framework, but it is urgently necessary,” was the consensus recently at a virtual conference of officials.

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Almost a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, which deepened the economic slump that was already on the way, the situation in the companies and areas of the industry continues to vary. In Bavaria, for example, the short-time work, which accelerated a year ago, has fallen significantly, according to IG Metall. According to this, only 38 percent of companies currently have short-time work. In March 2020 it was 75 percent. The proportion of employees on short-time work has fallen from 33 percent in mid-2020 to 13 percent currently. But the metalworkers angered that in 2020 alone 35,000 M + E jobs across Bavaria were destroyed. Corporations such as Continental, ZF and Schaeffler took advantage of the crisis to whip through already planned job cuts and relocations to low-wage locations, criticized District Manager Johann Horn.

Such numbers and facts explain that the anger in the companies is increasing – and with it the willingness of the metal base across all companies to fight. According to a nationwide IG Metall survey of a good 250,000 employees in 6,700 companies, 72 percent fully or “somewhat” agree with the statement “we have to be loud together to fight for the employees in the region”. In the vehicle and steel industries, approval is even higher. 72 percent consider wage increases important or very important. The permanent workforce is also afraid of losing a job after temporary workers have long since ended up on the streets in many places. The longing for shorter normal working hours is also widespread. The next few days will show whether the IG Metall leadership comes out of cover, picks up the challenge of Gesamtmetall and counteracts powerfully. Since this year there are collective bargaining rounds for 12 million employees nationwide, the basis for a broader cross-sector movement would definitely be in place.

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