Collective agreement signed in printing industry

In May 2002, the ver.di trade union and BVDM employers' association signed a new collective agreement covering 220,000 workers in the German printing industry. While ver.di sees the agreement as a pattern for other industries within the service sector union's jurisdiction, employers criticise the 3.4% pay increase as too high and predict that it will have a negative effect on employment.

On 29 May 2002, the Unified Service Sector Union (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, ver.di) and the Employers' Association for the Printing and Media Industries (Bundesverband Druck und Medien, BVDM) reached a deal on a new collective agreement covering some 220,000 employees in the printing industry.

The settlement came at the last minute, on the night before the union had scheduled a strike vote among its members. While ver.di initially demanded a 6.5 % pay increase over a period of 12 months, employers offered a two-year contract with pay increases of 2.5% in 2002 and another 2.8% in 2003. After employers withdrew an improved offer because of a lack of support within their own ranks, the union's collective bargaining commission asked ver.di's national executive committee to schedule a strike vote. The union planned to begin strike action in June, which would have significantly hurt German newspaper publishers at the beginning of the football World Cup, which usually draws a large audience and boosts newspaper circulation. Ver.di cancelled the strike vote after the settlement was reached.

The new pay agreement has a duration of 12 months and provides for:

  • a lump-sum payment of EUR 43 for the month of April 2002;
  • a 3.4 % pay increase from 1 May 2002; and
  • a 3.4 % increase in apprenticeship allowances.

A BVDM spokesperson, Peter Klemm, criticised the settlement as being too high because it did not take into account the economic situation in the printing industry. Mr Klemm assumes that many companies will reduce 'pay above contract wages' (ie additional payments above those laid down in the national agreement) to compensate for the collectively agreed pay increase. Mr Klemm also claims that the new agreement will significantly contribute to decreasing employment in the printing industry.

Ver.di, however, does not share this view and sees the new agreement as an excellent basis for future negotiations in other industries within the union's jurisdiction, such as retail and financial services. Frank Wernecke, ver.di's chief negotiator for the printing industry, also argues that the employers' claim that the settlement will lead to job cuts is merely a threat without real substance because, months before the settlement, the printing industry companies had already cut many jobs as part of company restructuring programmes.

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