Alliance for Jobs divided over bargaining policy

In late January 2002, representatives of the German government and social partners met for their eighth round of official top-level talks within the national Alliance for Jobs, Training and Competitiveness. The meeting was overshadowed by conflicting views between trade unions and employers on pay policy in the forthcoming collective bargaining round, and made no progress on this issue.

On 25 January 2002, leading representatives of the federal government, trade unions and employers' and business associations met officially for their eighth round of top-level talks, chaired by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, within the national Alliance for Jobs, Training and Competitiveness (Bündnis für Arbeit, Ausbildung und Wettbewerbsfähigkeit). The Alliance was established in December 1998 as a new permanent tripartite arrangement at national level, involving various issue-related working groups as well as regular top-level talks between the leading representatives of all three parties (DE9812286N).

The run-up to the January top-level meeting was overshadowed by sharply conflicting views between unions and employers on the 2002 collective bargaining round (DE0112248F). Most unions have called for significant pay increases in order to compensate for the decreases in real pay arising from the considerable wage restraint in the previous bargaining rounds (DE0201201F). In the view of the unions, it is also urgently necessary to strengthen domestic demand in order to overcome the current economic downturn and to create new jobs. The employers' association have sharply rejected these claims and called for a continuation of the moderate pay policy.

Unions and employers also had conflicting views on the question of whether or not the Alliance should make recommendations for the 2002 collective bargaining round. In January 2000, the Alliance adopted a joint statement on an 'employment-oriented bargaining policy' which included some recommendations for the following bargaining rounds (DE0001232F). Although the content of these recommendations was seen as a rather insubstantial compromise between employers and unions, they became widely regarded as providing support for a policy of pay restraint, and therefore had an important influence on the moderate results of the 2000 and 2001 bargaining rounds. The impact of the statement on collective bargaining was also the main reason for the fact that the role of the Alliance attracted growing scepticism within the unions (DE0012296N).

Against this background, various trade union leaders had declared that they would not support a similar statement in 2002, and insisted that the Alliance had no competence in the field of pay policy. Spokespersons for the employers' associations, however, stated that without an agreement in principle on pay policy the Alliance 'would make no sense'. A few days before the January meeting of Alliance, the employers' and business associations involved issued a draft of a new joint declaration by the Alliance, reaffirming an 'employment-oriented bargaining policy'. According to this document, pay increases in 2002 should be limited to the increase in national productivity only, which is expected to lie between 0.9% and 1.8%. Even before the meeting of the Alliance took place, the unions had publicly rejected the draft as unacceptable. Instead they announced their pay claims, which vary between 4.5% (in construction) and 6.5% (in metalworking).

After the January meeting of the Alliance produced no results in this area, the employers and unions blamed each other for this failure. While the employers accused the unions of 'blocking a reasonable pay policy', the unions accused the employers of making unrealistic demands and, thereby, seeking the failure of the Alliance for political reasons. Some union representatives speculated that the employers might be hoping for a victory by the opposition parties to the current 'red-Green' coalition at the forthcoming general election in autumn 2002. However, all parties agreed to continue talks within the framework of the Alliance.

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Add new comment