New collective agreements signed in printing and paper processing

In May 2000, trade unions and employers' organisations in the German printing and paper processing sectors concluded new collective agreements on wage increases and partial retirement.

On 11 May 2000, the sectoral employers' association, Bundesverband Druck und Medien (BVDM), and the German Media and Printing Union, IG Medien, signed new collective agreements for blue-collar workers in the west German printing industry. The deals include the following provisions:

  • wage increases. A new wage agreement provides for a 3.0% wage increase from 1 April 2000 and a further 2.5% wage increase from 1 June 2001. The wage agreement has a total duration of 24 months and runs until 31 March 2002;
  • partial retirement. The bargaining parties committed themselves to signing a collective agreement on partial retirement, which should give shiftworkers the right from the age of 57 to take partial retirement for a period up to six years on the basis of the "block model". This means that workers may continue to work full time in the first half of their partial retirement period, and then stop working in the second half. During partial retirement, the workers will usually receive 85% of former full-time income. An application for partial retirement can be rejected by an employer only if either 5% of the overall workforce or 8% of shiftworkers are already taking partial retirement. If the employee has a "core skill" within the establishment, the employer has the right to postpone the beginning of partial retirement by up to six months; and
  • vocational trainees. The collective bargaining parties have agreed to revise the existing collective agreement on "safeguarding employment and vocational training". The period during which vocational trainees must be taken on after completing training is extended from six to 12 months.

On 16 May 2000, the bargaining parties agreed to adopt the same provisions for the east German printing industry, with the exception that the initial 3.0% wage increase will become valid not from 1 April 200 but from 1 July. Originally, the east German employers had sought a different agreement, but the trade union had sharply rejected this demand and insisted on an identical agreement for east and west Germany. Furthermore, both parties have recommended their regional organisations to conclude agreements containing the same conditions for white-collar workers in printing, which are usually negotiated at regional level.

Originally, IG Medien had demanded: a 5.5% increase in wages; a one-year duration for the wage agreement; the right to take partial retirement for all employees from the age of 57; and a binding limitation on overtime in order to create new jobs. By contrast, the BVDM employers' association had originally offered only a 2.2% increase in wages from 1 April 2000 and a further 2.5% increase from 1 April 2001. At the same time, BVDM rejected the idea of an employee's right to take partial retirement and, instead, proposed to introduce partial retirement on a voluntary basis at company level.

BVDM expressed its satisfaction with the new collective agreements, which are seen to be "less costly" than those concluded in the chemicals and metalworking industries (DE0004255F). IG Medien declared that it was able to reach the agreements only because of the strong support of its membership. According to trade union figures, nearly 10,000 employees participated in warning strikes which accompanied the negotiations in printing.

One day after the conclusion of the printing agreement, IG Medien and the employers' association for paper processing, Hauptverband der Papier, Pappe und Kunststoffe verarbeitenden Industrie (HPV), signed new collective agreements which contain almost the same provisions as those agreed in the printing industry. The major difference is that the paper processing pay agreement includes two "zero-months" (Nullmonate) - ie months without wage increases - since the initial 3% wage increase will become valid from 1 June 2000 rather than 1 April.

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