New collective agreements for journalists on daily newspapers

A new collective agreement, signed in December 1997, cancels the previously agreed introduction of the 35-hour working week for journalists on Germany's daily newspapers.

On 15 December 1997, the employers' association for newspaper publishers, Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger (BDZV) and the two trade unions which organise journalists, IG Medien and Deutscher Journalisten-Verband (DJV), signed new collective agreements for the 17,000 or so journalists on daily newspapers. The negotiations, lasting more than three months, were overshadowed by strong demands for further cost reductions by the employers on the one hand, and accompanied by several union protest actions and warning strikes (Warnstreiks) on the other hand. Finally, the collective bargaining parties agreed on the following provisions:

  • a 1.5% increase in wages and salaries from 1 January 1998;
  • a 1.5% increase in royalties for freelance journalists from 1 August 1997;
  • a flat-rate payment of DEM 400 for August to December 1997, but only for western Germany. East German journalists get no flat-rate payment;
  • a flat-rate payment of DEM 200 for August to December 1997, but only for west German trainees. Once again, east German trainees get no flat-rate payment;
  • a reduction of Christmas bonuses (Weihnachtsgeld) from 100% to 95% of one month's pay as a compensation for securing 100% continued payment of remuneration in the case of illness (DE9709131F); and
  • the securing of the existing collectively agreed additional pension scheme (which employers had wanted to change).

The most controversial subject in the negotiations was working time. During the 1980s, the collective bargaining parties agreed on a step-by-step reduction of working time which originally foresaw the introduction of the 35-hour week from the 1 May 1998. Now, in the recent bargaining round, the BDZV employers' association sharply rejected any further working time reductions and demanded that the concept of fixed weekly working time be replaced by a concept of less binding "recommended working time" (Richtzeit). Even though the latter was not acceptable to the unions, DJV and IG Medien finally agreed to cancel the introduction of the 35-hour week and to continue with the recent 36.5-hour week.

While the DJV chief negotiator, Hubert Engeroff, saw the agreement as a "pragmatic compromise", IG Medien called giving up the 35-hour week a "mistake". The member of IG Medien's executive board, Gerd Nies, said that "in times of mass unemployment this collective agreement sets a totally wrong signal". At the beginning of January 1998, the IG Medien collective bargaining committee will have to decide on the final adoption of the new collective agreements.

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