On the Picket Line

IG Metall, Germany’s biggest union, makes a deal

By Emma Johnson
March 5, 2018

After a month of brief walkouts and a series of 24-hour protest strikes, IG Metall, Germany’s biggest union, has signed a contract covering 900,000 workers in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. The same deal is likely to be rolled out for the union’s members nationwide — some 3.9 million metal and electrical workers at thousands of companies, including manufacturing giants like Volkswagen, Bosch, Siemens, Mercedes-Benz and Airbus.

The agreement, which runs for 27 months, stipulates a 4.3 percent wage raise starting in April. Individual workers won the option to work 28 hours a week if they need time to care for children or aging relatives, but they would face a cut in pay. The standard workweek for IG Metall members is 35 hours.

And union officials agreed to a trade-off — if bosses find themselves short of workers, they can sign 40-hour-a-week contracts with workers. Bosses told the press the deal has some “painful elements,” but most thought it would work well for them.

“Employees have more opportunities to reduce their hours of work,” said Stefan Wolf, chief negotiator for Sudwestmetall, “while companies get more options to increase the volume of working hours.”

Last year the German economy grew at its fastest rate since 2011 and official unemployment is at its lowest since 1990.