Food industry social partners declare support for branch-level agreements

In November 1997, the collective bargaining parties in the German food industry presented a joint declaration on the future of branch-level collective agreements.

In recent years, branch-level collective bargaining (branchenbezogene Flächentarifverhandlungen) in Germany has been under increasing pressure from employers demanding more company-specific regulations on working conditions (DE9709229F). A majority of German employers' associations, however, still want to continue with a modified and more flexible system of branch-level collective bargaining. This has now been underlined by the employers' association for the food industry, Arbeitgebervereinigung Nahrung und Genuß (ANG), which together with the food and restaurants workers' union, Gewerkschaft Nahrung Genuß Gaststätten (NGG), published a joint declaration on the future of branch-level collective agreements at the beginning of November 1997.

In comparison with other branches the German food industry, which covers nearly 600,000 employees, traditionally has a rather differentiated collective bargaining structure with numerous collective agreements in the various regions and sub-branches, such as sugar and confectionery industries, breweries, beverages industries, milk products, meat and fish processing. According to figures issued by the NGG, the number of valid branch-level collective agreements in the food industry in 1996 was 1,763. In addition, there were 1,468 company agreements. To sum up, the German food industry displays a very high differentiation of wages and working time arrangements.

In the November joint declaration, the collective bargaining parties recognise the high flexibility in their bargaining system, with collective agreements of a manageable size, as being adequate for the specific needs of the food industry, especially those arising from the high proportion of seasonal work. Against this background, NGG and ANG declare that they want to continue with the principle of collective bargaining autonomy (Tarifautonomie) and the system of branch-level collective bargaining, while company agreements are to be kept as an exception.

NGG and ANG see the joint declaration primarily as an outcome of the discussions on the future of branch-level collective bargaining. Both collective bargaining parties expressed their willingness to continue joint talks on a further innovative development of branch-level collective bargaining - for example, in the fields of remuneration systems or working time arrangements for older employees. With an innovative modernisation of collective bargaining policy, NGG and ANG hope to strengthen the acceptance of branch-level collective agreements.

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