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Governments make provocative offer to German public sector workers



The latest offer made by the federal and local governments to public sector workers is a provocation. The offer does not come close to covering the wage losses due to current inflation levels, let alone the wage cut ensuing from the last contract. What public sector workers are being offered amounts to a massive real wage cut.

The employers’ side presented the offer on February 23 in Potsdam at the end of the second round of negotiations. Prior to that, the German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Karin Welge, who represents the municipalities as mayor of Gelsenkirchen, held two days of talks with the main public service union,Verdi, led by Frank Werneke. Werneke rejected the employers’ offer on behalf of his union and the civil servants’ association and announced new warning strikes to take place up until a third round of talks takes place from March 27 to 29.

Werneke and his fellow bureaucrats will use the period up to the new round to strike a deal with their fellow SPD party colleagues Faeser and Welge that is only just above the current offer. This modus operandi has now become commonplace for Verdi. For example, at the end of November 2021, the contract bargaining battle for state employed public service workers was sold out in similar fashion in the third round of negotiations.

There is therefore only one way to prevent the biggest real wage cut since the founding of the Federal Republic: The struggle must be organised independently of Verdi and the leadership of the negotiations taken out of the hands of its highly paid union bureaucrats. To this end, independent action committees must be set up that network nationwide and internationally.

The lead negotiators: Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Verdi boss Frank Werneke [Photo by BMI]

The offer on the table provides for an increase in salaries of just 5 percent over the course of more than two years. The term of the contract is to last 27 months (from January 1, 2023 to March 31, 2025). The first wage increase of just 3 percent is proposed for October 1, 2023, i.e., after nine months of workers forgoing any wage increase. An additional 2 percent is due to be paid in June 2024.

The current soaring rate of inflation is to be “compensated” by two one-off payments, the first of which, €1,500, is due to be paid in May 2023 and the second, of €1,000, in January 2024. However, these one-off payments favoured by government will have no lasting effect on wages and are at best a drop in the ocean. The money can only be used to settle some immediate debts with wages remain painfully low, while the price of fuel, heating, housing and food continues to rise.

In the last contract agreement in October 2020, Verdi agreed to a graduated wage increase of 3.2 percent over a period of 28 months. Since then, however, prices have risen by around 12 percent according to the official inflation rate, and by 7.9 percent in the past year alone. Even under the optimistic assumption that inflation will fall to 7 percent this year and 5 percent next year, price levels would still be around 25 percent higher when the contract now on offer expires compared to the year 2020. Salaries, on the other hand, would have risen by only 8.2 percent. This corresponds to a real wage reduction of about 17 percent within five years!

For apprentices, students and trainees, there is also to be just a 5 percent wage increase over 27 months; again with one-off payments (€750 in May plus €500 in January 2024) also planned.

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