East German workers push for same reduced hours as west

Talks to reduce weekly working hours for east German metalworkers to match those in the west have failed.

East German workers push for same reduced hours as west
A welder in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, in eastern Germany. Photo: DPA

Germany’s biggest union IG Metall wants to see metal and electrical workers in eastern Germany have their official weekly hours reduced by three hours – something which was agreed upon in the west of the country two decades ago.

The standard working week in the west of the country for this group of workers is 35 hours. This was introduced in the former West Germany in 1995, after years of compromises following the 1984 strike.

But in former East Germany, 38 hours remains the official norm, although there are some exceptions to allow employers to get around this maximum. 

However, this rule doesn't look like it will change anytime soon as employers and the union failed to reach an agreement after the latest round of talks held on Saturday. 

IG Metall, which has nearly 2.3 million members across Germany, said it was disappointed that employers were not prepared to reduce weekly working hours to match the west of the country. 

“30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, employers are refusing to adjust working conditions in east Germany,” said negotiator Olivier Höbel. “After six (rounds of) negotiations, we have found out that employers do not want the same working conditions (for east and west).”

Working hours still on the agenda

From the point of view of the Gesamtmetall employers' association, a solution is only possible “if it does not endanger either locations or jobs”. 

There is a collective agreement on the table which provides for “a fixed, permanent weekly working time,” “which is tailored to the needs of individual groups of employees through voluntary company agreements and which can be between 30 and 40 hours,” the association said.

Gesamtmetall stated that the introduction of the 35-hour week for individual companies would also be possible from 2021.

IG Metall, however, criticized the employers' proposal as a “comprehensive deregulation program”. They say the introduction of the 35-hour week in this way would not be binding and would only be possible with the employer's consent and full cost compensation by the employees. 

“Now we will put the reduction of working hours company by company on the agenda,” Höbel said.

The metal union previously scored an achievement when it won higher pay and the right to a reduced working week – or 28 hours for up to 24 months –  for senior employees last year. 

READ ALSO: Metalworkers win milestone 28-hour week concession from bosses

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Five things to know about salaries in Germany

Finding a job is typically a top priority when planning a move to Germany. The country boasts the third largest economy in the world and a continuing need for skilled professionals. 

Five things to know about salaries in Germany

If you are moving to Germany, you might soon start looking for a job in the country. However, like many other aspects of living abroad, there are several cultural differences and specificities when it comes to job hunting in Germany – especially when it comes to salaries.

Here are five things to know about salaries in Germany.

There is a minimum wage in Germany

Germany’s minimum wage of €12.41 per hour, pre-tax came into effect at the start of this year. This amounts to a monthly salary of €2,054 which ranks ninth in the world. The minimum wage will rise again in 2025 to €12.82 per hour before tax deductions.

There have been calls recently to hike the salary up higher to €14 per hour.

READ ALSO: Millions of workers in Germany ‘earning less than €14 per hour’

Find out salary expectations

Germany does not require companies to list salary ranges for listed positions. But that may be changing soon. The EU parliament passed a wage transparency law to require companies to publish annual reports detailing wage and wage discrepancy information. The rules, which are set to go into effect in 2027, are intended to help close the gender pay gap. 

In the meantime, employees can utilise online resources to find industry averages and expectations for different roles:

  • offers users access to salary information on more than 800 professions
  • Online platform, Kununu provides compensation information and employer reviews to users in the DACH region  
  • Berlin residents can utilise REDSOFA’s salary survey for an overview of salary averages in the country’s capital city

As of April 2023 the average gross monthly salary was €4,323 according to Germany’s Federal Statistical Office.

Two-thirds of full time workers make less than this average monthly salary and one-third of workers earn more than this average monthly salary.

While wages after deductions may be less than similar roles in other countries, it is also important to take into consideration what other benefits come with a salary. Paid holiday leave, pension contributions, long notice periods and annual bonuses can help make up some of that difference. 

READ ALSO: How much do employees in Germany typically earn?

Check your payment schedule

Internationals can usually expect their salary once a month when working in Germany. Many German companies choose to pay employees either on the 1st or 15th of the month. It is also important to note that most employees can expect to receive their first pay check within 30 or 45 days of starting. 

For positions that offer yearly bonuses, these payments are included in a 13th pay check which are subject to income tax.  

A person works on a laptop.

A person works on a laptop. Image by Bartek Zakrzewski from Pixabay

How many hours do you work?

When looking for a job, don’t forget to check how many hours you can expect. Job descriptions will include expectations for time commitments. 

Mini-jobs, as expected from the name, are limited in hours and pay. Employees can expect up to €538 per month. Mini-jobs do not provide social security because they do not require social security contributions. Employees are also not automatically covered by health and nursing care insurance. 

Teilzeit, or part time jobs, are defined as any job where working hours are less than a full time position.

A common misconception is that part-time work requires working 20 hours or less a week. But an employee working five days a week for 30 hours, at a position that is typically 40 hours when full time can also be defined as a part time worker. 

READ ALSO: The rules in Germany around ‘mini’ and ‘midi jobs’

In fact, Germany has a term for workers who work between 28 and 36 hours a week. Vollzeitnahe Teilzeit, or nearly full time part time workers, can be a popular choice for some people, including parents. These positions can give employees more flexibility to balance work and family responsibilities. It is important to note that these workers are paid according to their time worked, so it will still amount to less than full time.

Depending on the work schedule, part time employees can earn the same amount of vacation as their full-time counterparts. That’s because holiday leave is calculated based on days worked, not hours. If a part time worker comes in five days a week, they will be eligible for at least 20 days of holiday. If that same part time worker comes in three days a week, they will be legally entitled to twelve days of vacation, even if they worked the same hours as the other employee. 

In most companies, weekly working hours between 35 and 40 hours are considered full-time employment or Vollzeitbeschäftigung

Watch out for the gross v. net difference

Before you sign the dotted line, it will be important to check how much of your gross salary you’ll be able to keep come pay day. Companies that include salary expectations in descriptions include gross salary (Bruttoeinkommen) – not the net income after taxes and deductions (Nettoeinkommen). The amount deducted will depend on how much you earn, the tax class you’re in and on other factors such as how much you’re paying for healthcare but it is usually around 40 percent. 

Salaried employees can find information on the deductions on their pay slip. Some to expect to see include:

  • Taxes are deducted directly from the gross pay. The amount is based on the tax bracket your salary falls within 
  • A percentage of your gross salary is also deducted for your pension / retirement contributions
  • Church taxes between eight and nine percent of your salary will also be due if you are affiliated with a religion
  • Unemployment insurance amounts to a 2.5 percent deduction from your gross salary. It is important to note that the insurance covers a salary up to €90,600 
  • Health insurance contribution rates are typically split between employers and employees. The rate depends on the provider. In 2024, the TK contribution rate to health insurance is 15.8 percent of the gross income

READ ALSO: What you need to know about your payslip in Germany