Unions gain a share of German economic recovery

Public sector workers and civil servants belonging to the German Ver.di trade union are celebrating a major collective bargaining breakthrough with a new pay deal offering increases of 7.5% over 30 months.

The agreement, which followed strikes in federal and municipal public service sectors and institutions, is the best deal the unions have secured for many years.

Trade union negotiators pointed to the upswing in the German economy generating record tax incomes. “With the buoyant tax revenues, there must be far more in it for public service workers than in past years,” emphasised Ver.di President Frank Bsirske. “Pay rises should be achieved in all wage groups. The lower income groups especially need a significant boost.”

The deal follows an earlier success achieved by IG Metall on behalf of almost 4 million industrial workers in Germany. In February the union won not only a 4.3% pay rise, but also greater flexibility including an optional cut in working time and extra paid leave for parents and carers.

In line with ETUC Deputy General Secretary Peter Scherrer’s prediction that this could set a precedent for other sectors, in April Ver.di also won pay rises of between 4.8% and 5.2% for 55,000 Deutsche Telekom employees, with the biggest increases going to the lowest paid. But the 26-month agreement also offers a cut in working time with an additional 14 days of paid leave per year. Deutsche Telekom has been struggling to attract qualified workers, and this deal – which also offers higher pay and job security for 7,000 apprentices – will help to make the company more attractive.

Ver.di recently concluded a similar agreement with Deutsche Post, securing a pay rise for some 130,000 workers. From 1 October, salaries will rise by 3%, and a further 2.1% on 1 October 2019. The agreement will run until 31 May 2020. Employees paid according to collective-bargaining agreements will get a one-off payment of €250 this year, as well as being able to choose between the salary increase or the equivalent amount of free time.