Schwerin (dpa) - The DGB federal chairman Reiner Hoffmann has lamented the erosion of collective agreements in Germany.
By the beginning of the 1990s, a good three quarters of all employees in the old Federal Republic had been covered by collective agreements, Hoffmann told the German Press Agency in Schwerin. "Today there are only 57 percent." In the new Länder, collective bargaining coverage was as low as 44 percent.
Collective agreements secured much better conditions for employees, said Hoffmann. "Collective wages are not only 900 to 1200 euros a month higher, the holiday is longer, the working hours are shorter, the working conditions better." They also made sense for companies and created a level playing field. At the same time, social cohesion will be strengthened.
One reason for the drop in collective bargaining coverage in Germany was that West German companies had invested after the fall of the Wall on the condition that their subsidiaries do not join the employers' association. Thus they were not bound by collective agreements. "This was justified by the fact that productivity was not high enough," said Hoffmann. But productivity can not develop unless adequate wages are paid. In the aftermath, the tariff landscape was also under pressure in the West.
Hoffmann accused employers of often thinking in the short term of economics rather than economics. Wages are not just a cost factor, he said. "The fact that we have a relatively stable domestic economy is also due to the fact that the trade unions have been able to conclude good pay increases in recent years, and much of this goes into direct consumption." This could compensate for emerging and already occurring declines in exports.
With regard to the dissatisfaction of parts of the East German population, he referred to regions with positive development, such as Jena, Leipzig or even Schwerin. "Living conditions have become much the same in the past 30 years, though there are differences." Unemployment in 2000 was about ten percentage points higher in the East than in the West. Today there are two more points. "This is a success story." Hoffmann welcomed the concept of Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) for a basic pension. This could benefit women in the East, he said.