Fewer workers have union-agreed wages

Fewer German workers are working under national wage agreements made with trade unions, with experts suggesting the traditional role of unions was likely to continue shrinking.

Fewer workers have union-agreed wages
Photo: DPA

Last year just 53 percent of Germans in the west of the country, and only 36 percent of those in the former east worked under the Branchentarifvertrag agreements. These are conditions agreed between trade unions and employers which apply to an entire industry across the country.

In 1970 around 70 percent of workers in West Germany, and 56 percent of those in East Germany worked under such conditions, figures from the Institute for Employment Research show.

The decline is expected to continue, said Susanne Kohaut and Peter Ellguth from the institute, in a statement. “In the long term, this tendency is clear,” they wrote.

Yet Germany’s service sector union Verdi said it was growing this year, with a net increase of around 4,000 members during the first five months of the year, it said on Monday.

“We have never experienced such a development,” said Verdi head Frank Bsirske. He said around 68,000 people had joined the union, but that around 64,000 had left.

He said the increase in members was at least in part due to the many conflicts over pay in such areas as the aviation industry and retail.

And on Monday Amazon several hundred staff in Germany walked off the job at Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig in the third strike within the past month. The workers are calling for work and wage conditions matching the national retail and mail order industry agreement. Amazon’s managers are not offering more than the wages paid in the logistics industry.

The Local/DPA/hc

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Hundreds of thousands take to streets against Macron’s pension plan

Demonstrators in France took to the streets Saturday for a seventh day of protest against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform plans, with police expecting up to a million people at rallies nationwide.

Hundreds of thousands take to streets against Macron's pension plan

Unions hope they can still force Macron to back down as parliament debates the draft law, with the National Assembly and the Senate moving towards a final vote as early as this month.

“This is the final stretch,” said Marylise Leon, deputy leader of the CFDT union. “The endgame is now,” she told the franceinfo broadcaster Saturday.

This week, Macron twice turned down urgent calls by unions to meet with him in a last-ditch attempt to get him to change his mind.

“When there are millions of people in the streets, when there are strikes and all we get from the other side is silence, people wonder: What more do we need to do to be heard?”, said Philippe Martinez, boss of the hard-left CGT

“This country’s leaders need to stop being in denial of this social movement,” said CFDT head Laurent Berger on Saturday.

Police said they expect between 800,000 and one million people at 230 planned demonstrations across France, of which up to 100,000 were likely to march in Paris.

It was the second protest day called on a weekend, with unions hoping that demonstrators would show up in greater numbers if they did not have to take a day off work.

“I’m here to fight for my colleagues and for our young people,” said Claude Jeanvoine, 63, a retired train driver demonstrating in Strasbourg, eastern France. “People shouldn’t let the government get away with this, this is about the future of their children and grandchildren,” he told AFP.

READ ALSO: 5 minutes to understand … French pension reformĀ 

At the last big strike and protest day on Tuesday, turnout was just under 1.3 million people, according to police, and more than three million according to unions.

Several sectors in the French economy have been targeted by union calls for indefinite strikes, including in rail and air transport, power stations, natural gas terminals and rubbish collection.

The French Senate, meanwhile, early Saturday resumed debate on the reform whose headline measure is a hike in the minimum retirement age to 64 from 62.

Senators have until Sunday evening to conclude their discussions, and a commission is then to elaborate a final version of the draft law which will be submitted to both houses of parliament for a final vote.

Should Macron’s government fail to assemble a majority ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne could deploy a rarely-used constitutional tool, known as article 49/3, to push the legislation through without a vote.

An opinion poll published by broadcaster BFMTV Saturday found that 63 percent of French people approve the protests against the reform, and 54 percent were also in favour of the strikes and blockages in some sectors.

Some 78 percent, however, said they believed that Macron would end up getting the reform adopted.

READ ALSO: LATEST: How strikes will affect France this weekend