Berlin (dpa) - In the difficult change in the auto industry with its hundreds of thousands of employees, jobs should also be secured with the help of the state.

The planned measures are designed to facilitate access to short-time work and to better qualify employees when changing from an internal combustion engine to an electric motor. Politics, unions and business associations want to pull together, as became clear after a top meeting in Berlin.

IG Metall boss Jörg Hofmann called for quick steps by politicians after the meeting, led by Chancellor Minister Helge Braun (CDU), to facilitate the restructuring of the industry. He expected "shortly concrete results", for example, to qualify employees and to facilitate short-time work, said Hofmann.

There had been talk of how to make the mobility turnaround “without putting workers under the wheel” and without “industrial deserts” in regions that depend heavily on the combustion engine. "For me, short-term doesn't mean months," he added.

The vice president of the VDA car association, Arndt Kirchhoff, said it was about how Germany's competitiveness could be maintained. This would require employees to be qualified for new jobs. "It's a big challenge." It's not about helping billions, it's about taking the right measures. The responsible federal ministries now wanted to get them started.

The president of the employers' association Gesamtmetall, Rainer Dulger, said that the phase of change in the industry in the face of digital change and electromobility is falling into an economic dip. For this reason, easier access to short-time work benefits is needed.

A position paper by VDA, Gesamtmetall and IG Metall on the meeting states that it is of the greatest interest in society as a whole to continue to have a competitive, innovative and employable industry in Germany in the future.

The short-time benefit relief must be acted quickly because many corporate decisions were made in the first quarter. Companies must be able to retain employees despite the temporarily lower volume of orders, according to the paper available to the German Press Agency. A fund could make it easier for suppliers to access equity or debt.

The automotive industry is in the midst of a fundamental change from petrol and diesel to more climate-friendly alternative drives such as electric motors. Manufacturers and suppliers have to invest billions. However, fewer jobs are required for electric cars because there are far fewer components. So far, however, e-mobility has hardly generated any money.

At the same time, demand in key sales markets has decreased. So far, this has mainly affected suppliers. There is already short-time work and the announcement of job cuts. According to a scenario in the report of an expert commission, hundreds of thousands of jobs could be at risk in the German automotive industry.

Hofmann had said in the run-up to the dpa meeting: "IG Metall expects that the labor market and industrial policy flanking the turnaround in traffic will be boosted and the necessary tools will be sharpened." Access to short-time work must be made easier for the industry in the short term order and structure-related under-utilization without bridging layoffs. "This also includes reducing costs for companies when they combine short-time work with qualifications and extending the reference period to 24 months."

Stefan Wolf, CEO of the automotive supplier ElringKlinger and VDA board member, told Deutschlandfunk that the industry is already very well positioned in the field of fuel cells and battery technology. "But of course we have to do more research and if government funds are made available and not only in our company, but in many other supplier companies, I believe we will create the structural change." Wolf mentioned a sum of 10 to 20 billion euros , also for the expansion of the charging infrastructure.