The IG Metall union moved on Tuesday to shut down strike action by hundreds of thousands of metallurgical, automotive and electrical workers across Germany, ahead of the planned formation of a new grand coalition (CDU/SPD) government this week.
After more than a decade of wage and benefit cuts, with German corporations awash in profits, the union has agreed to a contract that will reduce workers’ wages in real terms and ban further strikes for over two years.
The deal makes clear that the union never had any intention to improve workers’ wages and conditions. Rather, it sought to prevent pent-up anger over falling wages from leading to a nationwide strike movement that might endanger the formation of another coalition government between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Despite broad opposition to the imposition of another round of wage-cutting, workers will not be allowed to even vote on the new contract, which will be effectively imposed by decree.
And despite plans by Siemens, General Electric, Opel and Bombardier to implement mass layoffs, workers will be prevented from striking for the 27-month duration of the contract.
The union is seeking to tie workers’ hands in the face of the next round of social austerity, which the grand coalition is preparing in order to finance its plans for military rearmament and further enrich the banks and corporations.
The contract provides for a wage increase of just 4.3 percent, spread over more than two years, meaning that workers’ wages will barely keep up with the rate of inflation, which is expected to increase over the coming period. This will mean an effective pay cut. To offset this wage reduction, the union has agreed to a set of miserly cash payments, which the corporations can renege on if they cite “economic hardship.”
The final deal is even worse than the offer the employers made last month. At the time, the employers had offered 6.8 percent over a 27-month term, or 3 percent a year, compared to the 6 percent annual wage increase that the union had officially demanded.
IG Metall has even transformed its original demand for a voluntary reduction of working hours with a partial wage compensation into its opposite. Although workers can reduce their weekly working time to 28 hours for up to two years, they will not receive any wage compensation.
In addition, the companies can permit up to half of their workforce to exceed the standard 35-hour workweek if they claim a “shortage of skilled workers.”
Years of wage-cutting and the gutting of workplace protections have already swelled the profits of German corporations and made Germany the most unequal large country in Europe.
The incoming grand coalition government will not only continue this assault on workers’ wages and benefits, but set a precedent for wage-cutting throughout Europe.
Excerpt from an article published in www.wsws.org