Gesamtmetall and IG Metall hold talks on Alliance for Jobs

At the end of September 1999, representatives of the Gesamtmetall metalworking employers' association and the IG Metall metalworkers' trade union met to discuss the possible impact on their sector of the positions on collective bargaining within the national "Alliance for Jobs" taken by the DGB union confederation and BDA employers' confederation. So far the talks have shown no results, since both parties still have differing interpretations of the relevant positions.

In July 1999 the central German social partner organisations - the German Federation of Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB) and the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (Bundesvereinigung der deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände, BDA) - agreed a joint declaration (DE9907219F) which sought to define the role of collective bargaining within the national "Alliance for Jobs" (Bündnis für Arbeit). The Alliance was established in December 1998 as a permanent tripartite arrangement at national level (DE9812286N). In order to explore the ground for a possible implementation of some of the principles of the BDA/DGB declaration in collective agreements, representatives from the Gesamtmetall metalworking employers' association and the IG Metall metalworkers' union met for top-level talks on 29 September 1999. The talks ended, however, without concrete results as both parties still have rather different interpretations of the BDA/DGB declaration, and also have different priorities regarding the "Alliance for Jobs".

Immediately after the last round of central talks within the national Alliance, the IG Metall executive board published a paper in which it welcomed the BDA/DGB declaration because it argues for a "different distribution of work", "an employment-creating reduction of overtime" and gives unequivocal support for the principle of collective bargaining autonomy. Considering the latter point, in IG Metall's view it has always been clear that the Alliance for Jobs could never determine wage increases or give recommendations for wage guidelines. Since the BDA/DGB declaration demanded the use of productivity gains mainly for the creation of employment, IG Metall stated that this should be interpreted not as a general agreement on a policy of wage restraint, but as a request to use productivity increases not only for wages but also for further working time reductions. IG Metall has demanded, in particular, a collectively agreed scheme for early retirement at the age of 60 (DE9910217F).

A rather different interpretation of the BDA/DGB declaration has been given by Gesamtmetall. On 19 August 1999, its executive board published a paper on the Alliance for Jobs, in which it identified eight points where further political action is needed:

  1. the creation of more differentiated and flexible working time arrangements, for example through the extended use of working time "corridors" or working time accounts. By contrast, Gesamtmetall rejected all demands for a further general working time reduction;
  2. an employment-creating reduction of overtime which, however, should not mean a general restriction on overtime which is still needed to guarantee flexibility and competitiveness;
  3. increased use of part-time work which, however, should be used on a strictly voluntary basis without any obligations for the companies;
  4. an improvement in partial retirement schemes. Thereby, Gesamtmetall strongly rejected IG Metall's proposal for early retirement at the age of 60;
  5. the reinforcement of individual pension schemes through the use of the current regulations on capital-forming payments for individual pensions;
  6. a medium- and long-term collective bargaining policy, whereby increases in productivity would not be used for wage increases and working time reductions, but for an improvement of competitiveness in order to create employment;
  7. increased use of performance-related pay; and
  8. a further decentralisation of collective bargaining through the use of "opening clauses" in branch-level agreements, allowing companies to conclude establishment-level "employment pacts" which can diverge from collectively-agreed standards in order to safeguard employment.

On 27 September 1999, two days before the talks in metalworking, the president of Gesamtmetall, Werner Stumpfe, came forward with another proposal in which he offered IG Metall a kind of "industrial peace agreement". According to Mr Stumpfe, "it is a shame that since 1990 both organisations have never been able to reach an agreement in purely peaceful negotiations without any form of industrial action." As a "sign of change", he proposed the creation of a joint Gesamtmetall-IG Metall institution, financed by the strike funds of both parties, in order to promote social projects. The metalworkers' union, however, immediately rejected this proposal.

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