Employers propose changes to banking collective agreements

In November 1998, the German banking employers' association issued a five-point programme for the reform of the sector's collective agreements, aimed at obtaining greater flexibility and adaptability in order to meet growing competition.

On 5 November 1998, the employers' association for private banks, Arbeitgeberverband des privaten Bankgewerbes, announced a new programme which seeks to reform the collective agreements applying to the 475,000 employees in Germany's banking sector. Against the background of a steadily intensifying competition - arising from rapid changes in technology, the opening of new markets and the entrance of non-banking competitors into the banking business - the banks see a great need for a high degree of flexibility and adaptability, which they believe might be too restricted under the current collective agreements. Therefore, the banking employers have presented a programme which includes five guidelines for a restructuring of collective bargaining in the sector:

  1. reconsideration of the core functions of collective bargaining, which should be the establishment of minimum standards;
  2. reduction of the number of provisions, by focusing agreements on a few framework provisions on payments and working time;
  3. decentralisation of bargaining and strengthening of the company level, through the introduction of more "opening clauses" into sectoral agreements
  4. greater flexibility within collective agreements, which should allow for individuals to exchange various benefits - eg trading off pay and working time; and
  5. a new mode of operation among the bargaining parties, including a new "social partnership" instead of the old dispute-oriented culture.

As far as the content of current collective agreements is concerned, the employers seek: a reform of the grading system; the introduction of a new performance-related pay component to replace the collectively agreed "13th month" payment (Christmas bonus); and a cancellation of the collectively agreed ban on Saturday working.

On 11 November 1998, the banking employers officially presented their proposals to the sector's two representative trade unions, the Trading, Banking and Insurance Union (Gewerkschaft Handel Banken und Versicherungen, HBV) and the German White-Collar Workers' Union (Deutsche Angestellten-Gewerkschaft, DAG). Afterwards both unions criticised the employers' programme for a restructuring of bargaining, claiming that it contains only general principles but no concrete proposals which could be negotiated on. Furthermore, the unions sharply rejected the employers' demands for more Saturday work and the abolition of the Christmas bonus. The unions declared that they would support the introduction of performance-related payments, but only in addition to what has already been collectively agreed.

The demands and proposals of the banking employers will be negotiated in the forthcoming 1999 bargaining round. For their part, the trade unions are seeking a U-turn in pay policy and have already demanded significant wage increases of between 6.0% and 6.5% (DE9810279F). Therefore, both bargaining parties expect rather difficult negotiations.

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