Criticism of the minimum wage increase: Tired of tariffs?

Status: 03/06/2022 12:32

The sharp rise in the statutory minimum wage to twelve euros an hour has sparked criticism from employers: it is a farewell to autonomy in collective agreements. Correct objection?

Author: Anita Fünffinger, ARD Capital Studio

“You see, I have to come back soon.” Labor Minister Hubertus Heil visits Stefanie Speer hairdressing salon in Berlin Mitte. From October, they also apply a statutory minimum wage of twelve euros an hour. Determined by politics, not by collective bargaining partners. Autonomy for collective bargaining has constitutional status in Germany. Article 9 of the Basic Law guarantees the right to conclude contracts relating to working and economic conditions without state intervention. This means that: the state has no influence on how trade unions and employers find adequate wages for their industry and employees.

Steffen Kampeter, director general of the BDA employers’ union, considers the increase in the statutory minimum wage to twelve euros to be “the most fundamental attack on the autonomy of collective bargaining in the history of the Federal Republic.” In this way, the state ensures that no one will sit down at the negotiating table: “In areas where it is urgently needed, there will be no need to increase tariffs,” said Kampeter. “We are already experiencing that in some sectors minimum wages are no longer negotiated due to brutal interference with the autonomy of collective bargaining.”

Often there is no binding tariff

You don’t want a tariff? Some people on low incomes ring their ears. They work in sectors with traditionally underpaid or never collective bargaining positions. And this, according to labor market expert Susanne Ferschl from the left-wing faction, is also the main problem: “We have a declining reach of collective agreements, with the result that wages are more or less free-flowing. And that’s why the legislature is required to set a floor and dry up this big low-wage sector ”.

A former member of the Ferschl works council would also like the collective bargaining partners to negotiate wages among themselves. But: Those who are at risk now – many low-income people in the hospitality and restaurant industries, hairdressers, florists – have no collective bargaining at all. Neither relationship cares about them. One in five employees in Germany works in the low wage sector, more than in almost any other European country.

Low wages as “part of the business model”

The economy is profiting enormously from this low-wage sector, says Alexandra Fedorets, a labor market expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). “This means that many companies accept that they can count on such low wages,” says the expert. “It’s part of the business model. If a worker in the sector loses his job, there are enough other jobs. ‘

If you want to know how it happened, you have to go back 20 years. In times of high unemployment, when Germany was called “the sick man of Europe”, SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder launched Agenda 2010. The low wage sector was expanded, Hartz IV was created, mini-jobs were to encourage people to work.

Susanne Ferschl joined the Left Party in protest. “I am against Agenda 2010 anyway,” says the unionist. “But if you decide to do something like this, you should set a minimum wage right away. Colleagues from the Greens and the SPD have now confirmed this. ”

Increase in negotiated wages

Incidentally, there is no question of saying goodbye to the autonomy of collective bargaining. A look at data from the Federal Statistical Office shows that negotiated wages increased by an average of four percent in the first quarter of this year. Without government help.

And the SPD labor minister, Hubertus Heil, has not yet made an appointment with the hairdresser Stefanie Speer. But she confirmed to him that he urgently needed a haircut again.

Minimum wage increase – farewell to the autonomy of collective agreements?

Anita Fünffinger, ARD Berlin, 3/6/2022 8:24

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