German Chemical Industry, Union Settle
In marked contrast to the current labor unrest in Germany's metalworking industry, IG Chemie--the union that represents chemical industry employees throughout the country--has reached an agreement that raises wages by a total of 3.6% over the next 13 months.
The deal, which covers some 570,000 employees in the western German chemical industry, includes a 3.3% pay increase starting April 1, and a 0.3% increase to narrow differences in wages between salaried and nonsalaried employees. The union had opened bargaining with a demand of 5.5%.
Among its key points, the pact contains increased flexibility for workers to share profits in good years, while helping to protect plant sites and jobs in less profitable years. The settlement also gives the industry flexibility in paying Christmas bonuses, note officials at Germany's chemical industry employers' association, BAVC. It is, says BAVC President Rüdiger Erckel, "a new dimension in comprehensive union settlements."
The agreement undercuts efforts by IG Metall, the metalworkers' union, to gain countrywide pay raises of 6.5%, against an offer by employers of 2% for 2002 and 2003. IG Metall has threatened strike action if its demands are not met. The deal struck by the chemical union, traditionally considered more pragmatic and willing to negotiate, has already been praised by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as being "economically responsible."