Social partners in chemicals negotiate new collective agreement

At the end of March 2011, the German Federation of Chemicals Employers’ Associations (BAVC) and the Mining, Chemicals and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE) concluded a new collective agreement in the chemical industry to take effect at different stages during spring 2011. The social partners agreed to a wage increase of 4.1% for 14 months, flexible pay clauses, training programme expansion and support for training schemes in small and medium-sized chemical companies.

On 31 March 2011, the German Federation of Chemicals Employers’ Associations (BAVC) and the Mining, Chemicals and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE) reached a compromise on a new collective agreement. The agreement affects approximately 550,000 employees in around 1,900 establishments in the chemical industry.

Scope and content of the new agreement

The new collective agreement (in German) takes effect between 1 March and 1 May 2011 depending on the bargaining region. It will run for 15 months and has three main elements.

  • There will be a wage increase of 4.1% for all employees in the industry. In general, pay rises are to be introduced in the second month after the new agreement has taken effect in each region. Trainees are not included and will get a pay rise of €35 per month.
  • BAVC and IG BCE have agreed that the wage increase can be postponed for economic reasons by the social partners at the establishment level by a maximum of two months. The management and works council in prospering companies, however, can choose to bring forward the wage increase and start paying higher wages from the very first month of the new agreement. Whichever option is chosen by the social partners at the establishment level, a works agreement must be negotiated before any of these measures can be introduced. According to BAVC, this flexibility clause was incorporated to accommodate the varying economic circumstances of German chemical companies.
  • BAVC and IG BCE have decided to invest greater amounts of money in their Start programme (in German, 577Kb PDF). This initiative supports youngsters who have failed to secure a vocational training place or do not have the necessary skills for such training. Since 2000, over 2,200 youngsters have taken part in the programme, around 70% of whom were subsequently able to secure a training place. This programme will be expanded to include a new measure called ‘Start Plus’. This will particularly foster training activities on the part of small and medium-sized chemical companies which have so far not been able to support disadvantaged youngsters in their training efforts. Monthly contributions paid to each youngster taking part in Start Plus are to be raised from €205 to €430.

Position of the social partners

In a press release (in German) issued on 31 March 2011, the leading negotiator for BAVC, Hans-Carsten Hansen, said that the employer organisation had achieved its goals. BAVC had wanted to negotiate a collective agreement sustainable by all companies in the chemical sector. This had been especially hard due to the complicated economic situation in the industry, as smaller and medium-sized companies in particular are still struggling with the effects of the global economic and financial crisis. The introduction of flexibility clauses and the long duration of the agreement took account of these circumstances.

On the same day, in the IG BCE press statement (in German), its President, Michael Vassiliadis, welcomed the new collective agreement as a ‘fine and sustainable compromise’ reached after a two-day negotiating marathon. The union had campaigned for a pay increase of over 4% and higher wages for trainees. IG BCE’s leading negotiator, Peter Hausmann, added that the union had had to ‘rally hard’ in establishments and on demonstrations to achieve the latest agreement.

Sandra Vogel, Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln)

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