New collective agreement for public sector

In March 2009, a bargaining association led by the United Services Union and the Employers’ Association of German Länder reached agreement on a new collective agreement on pay for public sector employees, including apprentices, in almost all the federal states. A series of strikes prior to the agreement involved in particular teachers in eastern Germany. The agreement also provides for an adjustment of pay scales in eastern Germany to those of western Germany by January 2010.

On 1 March 2009, the Employers’ Association of German Länder (Tarifgemeinschaft deutscher Länder, TdL) and a bargaining association of trade unions in the public sector led by the United Services Union (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, ver.di) agreed on a new collective agreement that will cover about 605,000 public sector employees in all federal states (Länder) except Hesse in west-central Germany and Berlin in the northeast. Since 2008, an agreement exists to jointly negotiate on behalf of public sector employees between ver.di and some other trade unions affiliated to the Confederation of German Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB) and a bargaining association representing trade unions, the dbb tarifunion,which is affiliated to the German Civil Service Association (Deutscher Beamtenbund, dbb). Other parties to the new collective agreement are the German Union of Education (Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, GEW), the German Police Union (Gewerkschaft der Polizei, GdP) and the Trade Union for Building, Forestry, Agriculture and the Environment (Industriegewerkschaft Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt, IG BAU) – all affiliated to DGB.

Provisions of new agreement

The collective agreement covers the period from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2010.

The agreement provides for a one-off payment of €40 for January and February 2009, a general pay increase of €40 followed by an increase of 3% with effect from 1 March 2009 and a further general pay increase of 1.2% with effect from 1 March 2010. Partly as a compensation for the general €40 increase in March 2009, a performance-related payment – introduced with effect from 1 January 2007 (DE0606029I) and amounting to at least 1% of the pay-roll of the public sector employers concerned – was removed from the collective agreement.

The monthly remuneration of apprentices and trainees will increase by €60 with effect from 1 March 2009 and by 1.2% with effect from 1 March 2010.

Pay scales in eastern Germany will be fully adjusted to the western German level by 1 January 2010.

The parties also agreed to begin talks on a new framework agreement on the pay scale grouping of public sector employees including teachers.

Background

In recent years, the governments of Germany’s federal states have taken a leading role in challenging the traditional German practice of negotiating one general framework agreement for all public sector employees at national, federal state and local level. The 2005–2006 bargaining round, which focused mainly on the issue of working time, was particularly conflictual and involved 14 weeks of strike action before a final settlement could be reached.

This year’s bargaining round had somewhat less potential for conflict as it focused on pay. However, as negotiations failed to deliver a quick settlement, the trade unions in the public sector organised about 12 major days of industrial action in February 2009 and called on their members to turn out for warning strikes. The strike calls were particularly followed by teachers in a number of eastern German states.

According to GEW, some 100,000 teachers participated in several waves of one-day strikes, most of whom were women. The huge walk-out of teachers was a novelty in German bargaining history and resulted in the largest strikes ever organised by GEW. The reason for this strong mobilisation is pay differentials between teachers according to their employment status. Traditionally, teachers in public schools in Germany have almost exclusively been employed as career civil servants. Career civil servants enjoy lifelong employment but are exempt from collective bargaining and have no right to strike. In recent years, however, some federal states in particular in eastern Germany have begun to employ teachers no longer as civil servants but as public sector employees. This led to substantial differences in net income as civil servants are not subject to social security contributions but public sector employees are. Teachers are among the best organised employees in the public sector at federal state level and their strikes proved to be very effective.

Members of both ver.di and GEW went to ballot on the final agreement: 64% of ver.di members and 84% of GEW members voted for acceptance of the agreement.

Heiner Dribbusch, Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI)

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