German "Hot Autumn"
Richard.Bos at hagcott.meganet.co.uk
Thu Oct 3 13:26:09 MDT 1996
New Worker report by Steve Lawton
OVER 100,000 German metal workers spilled onto the streets on Tuesday
in mass rallies across the country, as the government, in its latest
attack on living standards, gave companies the go-ahead to slash
Trade unionists' reaction has been building since a package of
drastic cutbacks was pushed through Parliament by Chancellor Helmut Kohl
on 13 September. This was part of a 12 billion DM budget reduction to
meet European Union criteria. Among other things, legislation raised the
pension age and relaxed the law preventing carte blanche hire-and-fire
Actions have been taking place at Ford and Opel plants with at least
80,000 Daimler workers in 50 plants nation wide going on strike against
the divide-and-rule levels of sick pay that will result.
Bosses and financial pundits have been at pains, particularly since
the major French strikes, to show how German culture" differs from the
French when it comes to strikes.
Nothing like last December will happen in Germany they say. But
organised workers have been engaged in a number of actions since last
the view of Daimler"s national works-council chair Karl Feuerstein --
and the country's biggest industrial group -- suggests a new
determination on the part of workers and their union to fend off the
Feuerstein said in the Wall Street Journal: "Factory buildings and
offices are empty and grounds in front of the factories are filled with
more (protesting) people than at any time in the history of this
company". And at Mercedes' key Stuttgart plant workers are banning over
time and weekend working until Daimler reconsiders its position.
The dominant three-million member metalworkers' union I G Metall has
said they will take their actions on to a general strike if a
satisfactory solution is not found.
Through industrial action and in the courts, I G Metall is mounting a
defence against what employers are determined to break -- the union's
ability to maintain control of national pay contracts. The cut in sick
pay by at least 20 per cent, the union believes, is aimed precisely
at the union's national structure of bargaining.
As German companies restructure and cut back jobs, so the unions'
strength is put under pressure. Resort to more direct strike action to
build the resistance to wholesale sackings is reinforced by the fact
that I G Metall is not achieving its aims through the legal system.
For instance, in August the firm of Viessmann Werke wanted its
workforce of nearly 4,000 to work an extra three hours a week for no
extra pay. I G Metall took them to court, but the court ruling found
against the union.
Further strike action is expected in France on 17 October and in
Italy, as the national budget looms, strikes and demonstrations are in
New Worker Online http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/2853
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