German "Hot Autumn"

Jon Flanders 72763.2240 at
Tue Oct 1 08:01:41 MDT 1996

>>By all accounts, Germany is groaning under the strain of high labor costs,
lavish vacation and sick pay benefits, and rigid work rules. Employees are
entitled by law to six weeks of vacation,
 plus frequent religious holidays, and union contracts in many industries
entitle workers to extra money for vacation and a month's bonus pay at

   Employee sick pay -- the target of the current firefight -- has until now
been among the most generous in Europe. Workers have been entitled by law to
receive 100 percent of their salary for up to six weeks of sick time a year, a
benefit that can now drop to 80 percent of pay under the
 new law. Workers who can get a doctor's prescription are also entitled to
spend three weeks every four years at a health spa -- a practice that has
created a substantial industry devoted to resort-style spas that are paid by
insurance.<<NY Times, Oct.,1, 1996

 Jon Flanders:

   I am struck by the tremendous advantage US employers have over the
Europeans, even in the highly unionized sector in which I work.

   Let me give you some examples. My current union contract, which was just
ratified by a narrow margin, allows for NO sick days. This is true, and has
always been true, for all the shop craft unions that I know about. Even our
unionized foremen can only get paid for one sick day if they take off two
days, which means one unpaid day.

  It takes us eight years to get three weeks paid vacation. Ditto for ONE
personal day off a year. We get 11 holidays paid a year. No Martin Luther King
day for us yet.

  We get no premium pay for working second or third shift or weekends. It is
all straight time.

  Our health plan, just taken over by HMO giant United HealthCare, requires us
to pay 15% of costs, if we do not use the facilities they specify. Our old
plan had a similar stipulation. If you get sick, you must call the misnamed
"Patient Advocate" to have you treatment vetted for payment. If they don't
think you warrant the doctor's diagnosis, they may not pay at all. We now have
to pay a certain percentage of any increases in cost of our insurance.

  As for health spas, well I know someone who nearly died of alcoholism that
got coverage for a clinic. No pay during the stay, though.

  It appears that a big fight is brewing in Germany. It may be a repeat of the
French upheaval. The employers are attempting to impose cuts in benefits
without negotiations, while previously existing contracts are still in place.

  I wish our European brothers and sisters well. They can look at us, in the
USA, if they want to see where their conditions of employment are heading.

  E-mail from: Jonathan E. Flanders, 01-Oct-1996

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