New agreement on pay and training in chemicals sector

In February 2014, the social partners in the chemical industry concluded a new collective agreement. The deal was struck after only two rounds of collective bargaining talks at the sectoral level. Key aspects of the agreement include a pay increase of 3.7% and a commitment to create around 9,200 new vocational training positions each year between 2014 and 2016. The new agreement runs for 14 months and affects some 550,000 employees in 1,900 establishments in the chemical industry.

New agreement

The German Federation of Chemicals Employers’ Associations (BAVC) and the Mining, Chemicals and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE) announced in a press release (in German, 121 KB PDF) that they had concluded a new collective agreement on 5 February 2014. Only nine local and two sectoral collective bargaining rounds between employers and unions were needed to negotiate the deal, which was the first agreement to be concluded in Germany in 2014.

Wage increases

The latest agreement, which affects 550,000 employees in 1,900 chemical and pharmaceutical establishments in Germany, is valid for 14 months and includes an agreement to increase wages by 3.7%, which will come into effect after an initial ‘zero month’ with no increase. In the bargaining districts of Hesse, North Rhine and Rhineland-Palatine, the increase took effect on 1 February 2014, while in the regions of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Berlin (west), Westphalia, Hamburg, Bremen and Schleswig-Holstein, the wage increase occurred on 1 March 2014. Wage increases in Saarland and eastern Germany followed on 1 April 2014.

The agreement stipulates, however, that establishments can postpone wage increases for one month for economic reasons, and companies in very tight economic circumstances will be allowed to postpone wage rises by two months. A company in economic difficulty is one that has suffered losses in the last calendar year or faces impending losses in the current one. Where this is the case, works council approval is not needed.

Training provision

Employers and unions promised to create 9,200 new vocational training positions nationwide each year between 2014 and 2016. The social partners also recommend that companies offer permanent employment contracts to their fully trained apprentices although the final decision on this issue remains with the companies. Recent collective agreements in the metal and electrical industry have obliged companies in those sectors to permanently take on apprentices who have successfully completed their training (DE1206019I).

Although this will not be compulsory in the chemicals sector, the BAVC and the IG BCE have set up a database to monitor the individual circumstances of fully trained apprentices and the likelihood of them being employed by the companies they were apprenticed to. A new collective agreement for apprentices includes guidelines about taking on apprentices as regular staff following successful completion of their training.

Social partner views

Announcing the new agreement, BAVC President Margaret Suckale drew attention to the good social partnership in the chemical industry. She said that in times of greater economic pressure, being competitive remains important for the companies in the chemicals sector. She added that the new agreement would allow employees in the sector to share in the benefits of the industry’s success and young people to benefit from the training opportunities available in the industry.

IG BCE’s Chief Negotiator Peter Hausmann said in a press release (in German) that he considered the deal an appropriate compromise. Local campaigns had had the intended effect, he said, and pushed the collective bargaining negotiations in the right direction, resulting in higher wages and improved prospects for apprentices in the industry.

Sandra Vogel, Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln)

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