Monday, May 02, 2005

Which planet are they on?

According to the ddp news agency in Berlin, German trade unions are blaming companies (i.e., employers) for the mass unemployment. In his Mayday speech at the central rally in Mannheim yesterday, DGB [Confederation of German Trade Unions] Chairman Michael Sommer complained that "naked greed" prevails in the boardrooms of many companies.

He criticised "the increasing lack of responsibility among managers," who often regard employees' rights just as an obstacle. A new policy is needed to curtail these "misguided practices", he said.

IG Metall [Metal Workers' Union] head Juergen Peters called on the federal government to take "concrete steps" as a result of the capitalism debate. It is necessary to implement EU-wide minimum standards with regard to wages and company taxation, as well as a coordinated, EU-wide investment programme, and publicly subsidised employment, he said.

Ver.di [services sector trade union] chief Frank Bsirske demanded the introduction of statutory minimum wages. It is possible to stabilise the domestic economic situation and at the same time, help the employees, he added. The free fall of the wages has to be limited effectively, Bsirske said in Munich. He stressed: "Employment must not lead to poverty."

Bsirske criticized the federal government for its labour market reform programme, "Hartz IV", which has brought nothing but new job fears and, according to the statistics, five million unemployed. But it has not led to the creation of new jobs, he stated.

The chief of IG BCE [Mining, Chemical, and Energy Industrial Union], Hubert Schmoldt, in his speech in Ludwigshafen sharply attacked also the CDU [Christian Democratic Union]. With demands for less protection against dismissal and laws on opening hours, the CDU is "gradually" moving away "from the social market economy and Ludwig Erhard's inheritance", he said.

Oh, and by the way, the German electronic giant, Siemens is struggling to find a buyer for its loss-making phone-making division but has had few takers, despite the firm offering £340 million – equivalent to a year’s losses – to anyone prepared to take the unit off their hands.

However, companies expressing an interest, such as the US giant Motorola and the Chinese technology company Huawei, have cried off, owing to rigid German labour laws which would require the new owners to keep the 7,000 work force intact. They would also make it difficult to cut wages or increase working hours.

Without a new buyer, though, the chances are that the division, which has been hived off as a separate company, will be put into liquidation and all the workers will be made redundant.

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